Brandon Glandon’s daughter, Amianah Glandon, attends the Head Start program.
Her classroom teacher is Ms. Darla Sprague (right).
By Howard Spence
LANSING, MI -- The Capitol Area Community Services Organization (CACS) recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of service to the public. The nonprofit organization administers a wide variety of grants and programs designed to provide a better quality of life for residents in our area – particularly those who are disadvantaged, live in poverty, or who would benefit from community support programs.
CACS is governed by a Board of Directors of 27 individuals who are elected officials from Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, and Shiawassee, or who are residents or consumers from our area, or representatives of other community organizations and interests that address poverty. Heather Pope of East Lansing is the current president of the CACS Board of Directors.
According to Ms. Pope, "CACS provides a multitude of services to the low-income communities in those counties and in so doing, achieves the stated purposes of the (federal) legislation to eliminate poverty, expand educational opportunities, expand the safety net for the poor and unemployed and tend to the health and financial needs of the elderly. After 50 years, we continue to meet the multitude of needs of the low-income citizens in the mid-Michigan area."
Many residents are somewhat familiar with the federal head start program – one of the oldest and main programs administered by the CACS. One critical function of CACS is the oversight of the early education programs of Head Start, Early Head Start, and a new program providing home visiting services to families.
Recently CACS was awarded a nationally competitive grant to establish a community partnership between Head Start and local childcare centers. CACS does more than just help children receive an early education. It also provides for more than 1 million pounds of commodity food assistance annually to low-income eligible senior and non-senior households in the greater Lansing area. Other programs offered locally by CACS are designed to provide seniors with medical, legal and tax preparation assistance and to help families find affordable and safe housing through the CACS homeless assistance programs.
Have you noticed those yellow school buses that have CACS printed on their sides? Those buses are probably being used to help transport children to and from any of the several Head Start schools or educational centers located throughout the four county area.
One of the larger Head Start schools within the CACS program is located in North Lansing near the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue. That Head Start school enrolls approximately 184 students and uses 12 classrooms to provide them with instruction and preschool care.
The Grand River School building had been the leased home for Head Start in the city of Lansing since the Lansing School District (LSD) decided to discontinue using that building for regular public school classes. The LSD had been leasing that building to CACS, but recently sold that building to them for $20,000. CACS invested an additional $60,000 for repairs which are needed on the building to make sure it continues to be usable by the Head Start students.
Sharon Rogers is the CACS Community Resource Manager. She has the responsibility for part of the oversight of the students and the CACS teaching and childcare staff in the Head Start centers. She began her career over 20 years ago with CACS as a classroom teacher.
"We are very proud of the hard work of our teachers and other staff here at Grand River Head Start school, and we enjoy and appreciate being able to work with the young parents of our Head Start students who are very concerned about making sure that their children get the best possible start to successful education opportunities," said Ms. Rogers. "Although the work can be very challenging, it also is very rewarding. Our job and goal is to make sure that each of the children enrolled in the Head Start program gets the best possible opportunity to be as successful as they can in their educational career once they reach regular school age and become involved in K-12 classroom settings."
The rewards from enrollment in the CACS Head Start program are obvious. A line of approximately 15 adorable young kids – all bundled up in their outdoor coats and boots – walked single filed with their teacher through the corridors of the school.
Almost every one of the students raised their hands and waved and said "Hello Ms. Rogers" with big smiles on their faces as they marched off to an outdoor activity with their Head Start teacher.
Brandon Glandon’s daughter, Amianah Glandon, attends the program. According to Mr. Glandon, his 4-year-old daughter is really learning to like her classroom teacher, Ms. Darla Sprague, and fellow students. Mr. Glandon is hopeful that Amianah's Head Start prekindergarten experience will help prepare her to do her best possible work when she enters kindergarten.
Providing basic services to support the education of young children and to assist with assuring their well-being and nutrition doesn't come cheap. Most of the programming and materials are funded through federal grants related to the Head Start program.
Mr. Ivan Love, Executive Director of CACS, estimated that the total cost of the Head Start program each day in the four county area was about $60,000. At the present time there are approximately 1,600 students enrolled in the CACS Head Start programs. CACS estimates that there actually are approximately 3,700 students in the 4 county area who are eligible for and would benefit from enrollment in Head Start preschool programming. At the present time, the actual contact and involvement of program eligible students in the Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Shiawassee county area is only about 40%.
"Our students come from every racial and ethnic background, and they come from both urban and rural communities here in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, and Shiawassee counties," said Sharon Rogers. "We are very happy to think that we are making a positive impact on young people and young minds here in our communities every day. We work hard to encourage our students to learn, get along with others, and be the best young citizens that they can be. A young mind is an especially terrible thing to waste."
To staff and support all of the present CACS programs including the Head Start program, CACS employs over 400 employees of all types who add greatly to our community – not only through public service to those in need, but also as a significant part of the economy.
"We not only try to feed the minds of the young people in our Head Start programs," said Ms. Rogers. "We also try to make sure that they have the best possible nutrition and health support to ensure that their learning opportunities and growth opportunities are maximized. Our kids really enjoy the meals which we purchase from Tri-County Office on Aging and which they eat here in our Head Start programs every day."
If you or members of organizations in which you participate are interested in learning more about either the CACS Head Start programs, or any other of the property assistance programs offered through CACS, you can start by visiting their website at https://cacs-inc.org/.
This is one of a series of articles written for The New Citizens Press by Howard T. Spence as a guest reporter/opinion contributor. Howard is an Eaton County Commissioner from Delta Township, and serves on a number of public and private sector and nonprofit boards and commissions here in the greater Lansing area. He is an attorney, arbitrator/mediator, and former Administrative Law Judge.
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This was printed in the February 5, 2017 - February 18, 2017 edition.