We, together with children, families, staff and community, work to facilitate learning and support growth which empowers all partners in shaping their future.

Message from the Director

The UW Oshkosh Head Start mission, vision, and values clearly summarize the importance of families, staff, and community, as well as the child.  We could not do this work without each of those partners!  We believe that parents are the child’s first and most important teacher and seek to develop relationships with families and support their engagement in their child’s learning and development.  Head Start provides an enriching and supportive atmosphere for all who are engaged in the program.  The values identified contribute to the responsive and energizing spirit of UW Oshkosh Head Start.

Our team of over 130 professionals, provide comprehensive services to children and their families across 4 counties; Winnebago, Outagamie, Calumet and Shawano.  This program operates one of the larger programs in the state of Wisconsin serving 500 children and their families.  UW Oshkosh Head Start is one of only 15 Head Start programs in the nation that are affiliated with a University.

Head Start often has led the early childhood field with a strong, clear, and comprehensive focus on all aspects of healthy development.

  • Healthy and safe children are able to learn!
  • Engaged parents, who have their own needs met, support their children at home and school!
  • High quality learning experiences for children help them to develop to their highest potential and be ready for school.

Our program implements systemic and integrated, comprehensive child development services and family engagement efforts that lead to school readiness for young children and families as outlined in our school readiness goals and program goals.  This occurs when families and staff work together and collaboratively create a vision.

Together we will make a difference!

Lynn Hammen

About Us

Core Values


We recognize and utilize the life experience, abilities and skills of each other and work side-by-side with our partners to enrich their quality of life.

Authentic Relationships

Our relationships are characterized by trust, respect, confidentiality, honesty, openness, direct communication and shared decision making.

Diversity And Inclusiveness

We depend on the differences among us to give strength to our program and our lives.

Learning and Growth

We provide life long learning opportunities and trust that all partners will continue to grow.

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:  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.
  • 2006: Head Start provides 4 year old Kindergarten in collaboration with Oshkosh Area School District and Menasha Joint School District, serving over 140 students.
  • 2008:
    • Shawano Head Start site providing Community Based 4K collaboratively with the Shawano School District.
    • 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 served nearly 90 children with 4K programming.
    • Received an enrollment reduction of 45 children due to rising costs without a corresponding increase in funding.
  • 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.
  • 2013: Head Start provides 4 year old Kindergarten in collaboration with Appleton Area School District at two Appleton locations.
  • 2014: Appleton Head Start classes moved to new Community Early Learning Center, a collaborative location with other Early Childhood programs serving the community.
  • 2016: Two new Head Start classrooms located in Washington School in Neenah
  • 2017: Head Start Centers in Appleton, Shawano, and Menasha now have an option that provides 6.5 hours of class time for 5 days a week. Additional federal grant funding was received to support this change and contribute to startup costs for materials and renovation of a new location in Appleton.
    • Our triennial review was conducted during the 2017/2018 program year.  The program was determined to be in full compliance with the federal performance standards.UW Oshkosh Head Start program reached fidelity in Pyramid Model implementation which promotes young children’s social and emotional development.

      Seymour Head Start relocated to a classroom at Rock Ledge School and Kaukauna relocated to a site in Sherwood

  • 2019: Our program began to offer ALL 4k children in Shawano, Appleton, Menasha, and Oshkosh classes Monday through Friday, 5 days a week, for over 6.5 hours.
  • 2020: East Appleton Head Start expanded adding two additional classrooms and access to kitchen and large motor space. 

Program Governance

UW Oshkosh Head Start is an entity of the University of Wisconsin and is governed by the UW Board of Regents, which has legal and fiscal responsibility for administering the program.

The Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services at UW Oshkosh must ensure all policies and procedures are follow, which is designated by the governing board. This is accomplished via a Board of Advisers, comprised of University personnel with legal responsibility and personnel with programmatic responsibility, as well as other community representatives.

UW Oshkosh Head Start shares decision-making with a program representative Policy Council.  Policy Council members are elected at the first meeting of their center committee and serve as liaisons between the program, the centers and the communities served.  They initiate suggestions and ideas for program improvement and receive reports on actions taken.  With staff assistance, they plan, coordinate and organize agency-wide activities for parents and are responsible for the distribution of parent activity funds.  The Policy Council meets monthly September through June.

Each center has a functioning parent committee which meets monthly to review upcoming classroom and home based plans, to plan parent functions and to participate in training.  Members of the parent committee may assist the Policy Council personnel committee with hiring and also serve on other standing committees.

With shared decision making, involving the Board of Advisers, the Policy Council, and program management, UW Oshkosh has responded to national, state and local needs as they have developed, creating and establishing innovative programming as the needs arose.   It is the only University-affiliated program in the state of Wisconsin and one of very few in the nation.  This affiliation provides a range of resources and services from the academic departments as well as significant administrative support.

Regular financial and program audits indicate an effective and efficient operation that shows good stewardship of all grants and donated funds.  Federal onsite reviews, which occur every five years, has confirmed the professional competency and high quality of the UW Oshkosh Head Start program.

571 Monroe Street
Oshkosh, WI 54901
(920) 424-2166

571 Monroe Street
Oshkosh, WI 54901
(920) 424-2166