Pumphrey Head Start has double celebration First graduation held at new home

June 21, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

The occasion had all the pomp and circumstance of any graduation -- parents clutching cameras and camcorders, trying to get close to the graduates; distinguished guests waiting to be recognized; graduates in caps and gowns beaming with pride as they lined up to get their diplomas.

The only difference was that these graduates, clad in bright pink and blue gowns, stood about 4 feet tall and had their names taped to their chairs, just so there would be no mix-ups in the seating.

During an hourlong ceremony Friday morning, about 150 parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends crowded into the Lloyd Keaser Community Center in Pumphrey to celebrate the first graduating class of the center's Head Start program.

The occasion also marked the formal dedication of a newly renovated section of the 34-year-old former school now used for Head Start, an educational program for 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Parents said they were delighted with the renovated facilities, in three former classrooms that had been boarded up and unusable. The area has been transformed into two large, bright rooms filled with toys and children's furniture, with offices and bathrooms in between.

"It took them more than a year to do it, but it turned out really nice," said Sheila Aviles of Glen Burnie, whose daughter, Shenita, 4, was among those graduating.

Shenita was so excited about the day, Ms. Aviles said, that she refused to take off her cap and gown even after the ceremony was over.

"It was like, 'This is my graduation day.' She was real excited about it."

Gail Naumann of Linthicum, whose 4-year-old daughter, Jessica, was graduating, said that having a permanent place for Head Start has made a big difference in the quality of the program.

"This is great," she said. "Everything is brand new. . . . There's much better teachers this year. They're doing an excellent job."

Renee Foote, who oversees five Head Start programs in the county, including Pumphrey, said parental participation and community support were vital to the renovation project.

"There was a lot of community involvement," she said.

The Anne Arundel County Economic Opportunities Committee, which administers the federal grant to run Head Start, had been operating a Head Start program in the area using a "home-based" model, in which teachers met with children in their homes, said Ms. Foote. Since only a few children could be accommodated at a time, they generally had contact with Head Start staff only twice a week, she said.

Since the classrooms at the community center were renovated this year, children have attended the program daily for 3 1/2 -hour sessions in the morning or afternoon. The program has expanded to 72 children, 42 of whom completed the program Friday and will move on to elementary school this fall, said Ms. Foote.

The renovation project, which cost $168,000, was paid for through the federal Block Grant Program, said Vanessa Carter, a project planner with the county Office of Planning and Zoning.

Ms. Carter said that the classroom portion of the building needed extensive repairs and renovation and that the rest of the building required some mechanical and electrical work.

The community center, leased from the county by the Taxpayers Improvement Association of Patapsco Park, serves Linthicum, Pumphrey, Brooklyn Park and parts of Glen Burnie. Numerous community activities and meetings are held there regularly, as well as programs run by the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

Yolanda Dickerson, director of programming for the improvement association, said community leaders hope to find more money through the county or federal grants to renovate the remaining three classrooms in the building to expand Head Start further and to add a day-care center where children could be cared for before or after the Head Start program.

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