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Head Start history:

UW Oshkosh Head Start is a program rich with history and highly acclaimed with success. UW Oshkosh Head Start is part of a broader national and state Head Start program. 

Head Start, a program of the 1960s War on Poverty, has been one of the most successful and long-lived.   Launched as an eight-week summer program, Project Head Start was designed to intervene in the cycle of poverty. The program aimed to provide preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs.

In1965, the founding director of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver, assembled an interdisciplinary group of recognized professionals who, within six weeks, formulated the outline of a preschool program.  The committee took its responsibility seriously and created a program of unprecedented breadth and depth. 

On May 18, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the services to be provided would serve more than one half million poor children. The services would insure “poverty’s children would not forevermore be poverty’s captives,” it would be comprehensive and involve the parents of the children,  two critical conditions of this new initiative.

Since Head Start's formation, communities, families and programs have changed, but the conditions have not.  The comprehensive nature of Head Start has only grown and parent involvement is even more important now than it ever was.  

Head Start now serves nearly one million low income children in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories.  It is a program of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services and operates by federal law.


Timeline of UW Oshkosh Head Start

  • 1967:  UW Oshkosh Head Start was establish under the direction of Shirley Williams and served 50 children with eight staff members and a budget of less than $50,000.   Classes were held in the basement of Swart Hall on the UW Oshkosh campus.
  • 1970s:  The first expansions were made to the program with classes at Swart moved upstairs. 
  • 1974: A Neenah center was opened to accommodate low-income children in the Fox Cities area.
  • 1978: The Appleton and Shawano centers were opened by Joyce Wilcox, the longest serving director to date. The UW Oshkosh Head Start program served 165 children in 1978.
  • 1980s:  The Oshkosh classes moved to Peace Lutheran church and the offices were moved to the Gruenhagen Conference center.
  • 1990s:  The program more than doubled in size with home-based programs started in Calumet and Outagamie counties. Over the next few years, additional sites opened in both Appleton and Oshkosh.
  • 1990: The Menasha center was opened to accommodate a growing number of Head Start children in the Fox Valley.
  • 1991: An additional 22 children were served with State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Funds.
  • 1992:  A family service center project added more family services and staff and Head Start expanded into Kaukauna.
  • 1994:  Another expansion was added to the Head Start program by opening a center in Seymour.   
  • 1995: In the fall, the administrative offices and four classes were moved to the present site at the Joyce Wilcox Center.
  • 2000 forward:  Extended day programming began in 2001 at the Plamann Center Child Care Learning Center to assist employed parents with childcare.  Additional extended programming was added in 2002 in the Appleton area particularly for children with Limited English Proficiency.  Each area UW Oshkosh Head Start serves now provides at least one extended day classroom.
  •  2008:  Three child care collaborations sites in Appleton, Oshkosh and Shawano were added.  There are also ongoing public school collaborations and more in progress.  Between Oshkosh and Menasha, UW Oshkosh Head Start now serves nearly 90 children with 4K programming. Received an enrollment reduction of 45 children due to rising costs without a corresponding increase in funding.
  • 2009:  A  lengthy waiting list of income eligible children, a space opening at a current site, combined with ARRA Expansion Funding allowed an additional 23 children and their families in Ougamie County.
  • In 2008, Shawano added Head Start sites as 4K public school collaborations.
  • In 2009, Seymour added Head Start sites as 4K public school collaborations.  UW Oshkosh Head Start now serves 140 children in collaborative 4K models.
  • 2012:  Regular financial and program audits indicate an effective and efficient operation that shows good stewardship of all grant and donated funds.  Federal onsite reviews, which occur every three years, has confirmed the professional competency and high quality of the UW Oshkosh Head Start program.


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