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For 42 years, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has served more than 600 young children and their families.

UW Oshkosh’s Head Start program offers a free comprehensive early childhood and family development program for preschoolers and their families at seven different locations throughout the area. It is the only university-affiliated program among the 54 Head Start programs in the state and one of very few in the nation.

“Our goal is to provide an amazing preschool program and establish partnerships for low-income families,” said Kelly Butzlaff, director of family and community partnerships for UW Oshkosh Head Start.

“The University has embraced this program. Head Start really shows what the University is all about: giving back to the community,” she said.

Head Start works closely with the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), giving students a chance to gain hands-on experience.

“Head Start is pervasive in the Fox Valley region because of our program,” said Frederick Yeo, COEHS dean. “It gives the University an increased visibility in the type of things we can do in the community.”

Community collaborations in Head Start have been made possible by various federal grants the UW Oshkosh program has received, including this year’s $3.8 million grant from Department of Health and Human Services Administration.

“Head Start reaches out and provides a service to the community while establishing a successful base for the annual grant,” Yeo said.

Thanks to support from the grants, the program has been able to focus on involving whole families, instead of just children alone.

“We can make many strides with the child, but we really want to get parents involved to see meaningful changes within that family,” Butzlaff said.

Head Start encourages parents to aid in the classroom, help plan field trips and accompany children on the busses.

The Head Start program also is looking to expand the program’s services to younger children and recently submitted a grant application to the federal government for an early-childhood program.

For more information about UW Oshkosh Head Start, visit www.uwosh.edu/headstart/contacts/locations.html.

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