Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2008
Times change: Sisters to close Headstart Program
Lack of affordable housing drives families from area
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"The need has changed. Now the schools are taking over this (program)."
Moreover, many families have moved from the area because they couldn't find affordable housing, said Sargent. The sisters' kindergarten program, which is now full with 14 children, will also fold. However, the congregation will continue operating Lurana Shelter for Women, which is now administered by the Lurana Shelter Society.
There are nine Franciscan Sisters in Edmonton - four in active service and five in their retirement home. The Headstart Program was housed in a complex of buildings the sisters own at 11035-92 St.
The Franciscan Sisters have been working with the inner city poor for almost 80 years, mostly serving children.
In 1988 they opened the first multicultural day care in the city and in 1992 they opened the first multicultural Headstart, which met the high need for early childhood development programs at the time. The program started with 16 children and quickly grew over the years to a peak enrollment of 65 families.
Sargent described Headstart as a holistic program that supports parents as the primary teachers of their children and helps children to achieve the skills they need to be successful in life.
The program provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services free of charge to low-income families.
"Studies show that children and families in Headstart programs reap significant benefits," said Sargent. "They begin their school year better prepared for educational and social challenges and are more likely to go on to complete high school."
"What we are good at is working with immigrant children," added Sargent. "Last year we had children speaking 20 different languages from 17 different countries. But they came out of the program speaking English and well-prepared to enter school."
Sargent, who came from California to run the program four years ago, will continue working with the sisters in Edmonton, including helping at the Lurana Shelter and working with the congregation's associate members.
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