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Head Start is an important cornerstone of the social and educational investment the United States has undertaken for children, families, and communities. It is the national commitment to provide children, ages 0-5 years old, with the foundation they need to thrive and set them up for a lifetime of learning and growth in school and in the wider world.

“Project Head Start” was launched in 1965 as a comprehensive child development program. Over the last six decades, it has served more than 39 million children and families. Happy Birthday, Head Start!


In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson asked Sargent Shriver to convene an interdisciplinary panel of experts to design a program to help communities meet the needs of preschool children – in and beyond the classroom. The committee’s “Cooke Report,” named after its chair Dr. Robert Cooke, became the blueprint for Project Head Start.

Designed to help break the cycle of poverty, Project Head Start provided preschool children from low income families with a comprehensive program to meet their educational, health, and nutritional needs as well as offer support and resources to their parents.

Over the years, numerous studies have shown that Head Start students and graduates have improved life circumstances, including better health and a greater likelihood of graduating high school and earning a college degree or post-secondary certificate or license.


Head Start is rooted in the unwavering philosophy that where you come from shouldn’t stand in the way of where you’re going. The program now serves more than 800,000 children from income-eligible families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories, as well as American Indian and Alaska Native and migrant and seasonal communities.

Every Head Start classroom takes the same rigorous approach to learning, and our dedication extends far beyond the classroom as we focus on the development of the whole child. Parents and caregivers are treated as partners in their child’s education; Head Start provides support related to their child’s health, nutrition, and developmental needs. Head Start families have varying levels of experience navigating the educational system – we meet them where they are, treat them with respect, and support them to become a part of the community.

This approach has long demonstrated success – kindergarten teachers notice that Head Start graduates are more likely to demonstrate the skills needed for success in elementary school, such as raising their hands and waiting their turn patiently. 

The Office of Head Start is part of the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Help us celebrate by wishing "Happy Birthday Head Start!" on social media on Wednesday, May 15 through Friday, May 17.

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