For the first time, Head Start pre-K students graduated with Rosenwald High School seniors during their commencement Thursday morning at the Marina Civic Center. Rosenwald Principal Anita Dillard said this was a one-time event.
“I’m retiring and I wanted those students to transition with me,” Dillard said.
“I want those students (Head Start) to have a vision; there is a verse in the Bible that talks about without a vision, people perish.”
Dillard was responsible for the Head Start program coming to A.D. Harris during her time as principal there. When she moved to Rosenwald, she wanted the program to move with her.
She said because it is a dropout prevention center, she wants to give the Head Start students a look into the future.
“I want them to see our students graduate and plant a seed in them that they can graduate,” Dillard said.
Pam Fleege, executive director of Early Education and Care Inc., a Head Start provider, said the Head Start students were doing exactly that during the ceremony.
“It helps them dream about what’s a goal for them in life,” Fleege said. “That’s what it does; it sets the bar of expected behavior and a goal in life. As they sat there and watched them, they pointed out some of the seniors they knew. They identified with them.”
All eight of the Head Start students were visibly excited about the ceremony. Jahzara Daniel, 5, said they loved their program because they learned how to behave.
“We learned to listen and learn and follow directions,” Jahzara said. “We learned to sit quietly during the teacher talking, too.”
While they were learning at Head Start, they also were teaching Rosenwald seniors a few things. Rosenwald senior Justin Grant, 20, said reading to the Head Start students showed him the importance of being a good role model.
“When we go over there, they look up to us,” Grant said. “I don’t even like to read in school, but I like going over there to read to them. We give them motivation to stay in school.”
Fellow student Kevin Mills, 19, said he started reading to the students to help out.
“We read together and help them learn how to act with other people,” Mills said. “We tell them to keep reading and try to be good role models for them.”
Dillard said starting education early is the key.
“Education is important. Without it, you will not be able to have a productive life,” Dillard said. “I believe it’s the key. We do not want our students in the penal system and we do not want our students to become dropouts.”
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