As we reflect on the past year, our overwhelming sense is a feeling of gratitude to you and all of your colleagues who make Head Start tick each and every day. This year has been tough and we are both humbled and awed to be able to work with and for you. Despite the challenges, we are also very proud of all we have accomplished together in 2022. From policy changes and funding increases, to growing our skills and coming together as a community to celebrate the promise of Head Start, it’s been a year we will not soon forget.

Here is what NHSA’s team is most proud of:

  • Ending the year with an extra billion dollars, primarily to support your staff. The final FY23 funding package provided an increase of $960 million dollars for Head Start.
  • Expanding access to Head Start through SNAP eligibility. After a decade of advocacy, the Administration leveraged the Head Start Act to allow families who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to be categorically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start.
  • Navigating the ebbs and flows of COVID-19. After the implementation of the mask and vaccine rule, our community rallied together to urge the Administration to prioritize local decision-making based on the circumstances in each community. That advocacy led to the Administration dropping masking requirements and will continue until a final rule on vaccinations is released.
  • Showing Congress and as well as state and community leaders the impact of Head Start. Throughout the past year over 100 members of Congress and countless state and community leaders visited Head Start programs, where they were able to see first hand the power of the Head Start model. Seeing is believing after all!
  • Working to provide Head Start staff and leaders with the support and tools they need. From the launch of The Hub, which provides a one-stop-shop supporting workforce development in recruitment, training, retention, and more, to investing in Starling Minds, an outstanding mental health resource and resilience-building tool available to for every Head Start staff member and their own families, we believe a foundation to address our community’s workforce crisis has been built this year.
  • Re-engaging with Head Start children who are now changing the world. With 37+ million members, our Head Start alumni network has grown quickly this past year. Head Start alumni have the power and the stories to ensure Head Start will thrive for decades to come.
  • Convening and learning through our exhilarating conferences. This past year NHSA hosted six conferences that brought together record numbers of our community in Baltimore, Dallas, Boulder, and Washington, D.C. We also gathered virtually to share solutions and chart a path forward. It was one of the most engaging and energizing years yet!
  • Celebrating Head Start’s lifelong history of success. Of course, how could we forget  Head Start’s 57th birthday celebration in May where we recognized Head Start champions who courageously moved our community forward with bold, game-changing solutions.

From our NHSA family to yours, thank you. Thank you for your energy, your voice, and your dedicated advocacy, which made all of these successes possible. We are honored to work with you and we look forward to what we are going to be able to accomplish in the new year—renewed and infinitely hopeful about taking on the work that lies ahead.

Yasmina Vinci

Yasmina Vinci is the executive director of the National Head Start Association.