Head Start programs in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer Counties received a major budgetary boost, thanks to $3,328,749 in federal funding from a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Project Now is the administrator for Head Start programs in the area. Illinois Representative Eric Sorensen (IL-17) is excited about the funding coming to western Illinois. “I’m a firm believer that it shouldn’t matter what zip code you grow up in to determine your chance of success, whether that’s in school or whether that’s in a job and we really need to focus on that. I’ve had conversations with a lot of the administrators to listen to some of the needs that they have, so we’re constantly seeking out the grant funding that is going to help meet the needs of the administrators and the teachers in western Illinois.”

The funding is already making its way from DC to the Head Start programs. They’re in the pipeline right now (the funding), so we’ll make sure that these are allocated in the months to come so that we can meet the needs of the community here,” said Sorensen. He’s seen the impact of Head Start programming first hand. “As a meteorologist, as somebody who went into the classrooms for many, many years, I’ve seen what Head Start and what early childhood education mean for our communities. If we focus on the fact that our next discoverer of perhaps the science that we need down the road, perhaps a cure for cancer, I think about who’s going to make that cure. It’s going to be somebody who’s in a classroom today and we need to do everything that we can to make sure that the classrooms of today have the funding and the federal government should be leading the way.”

The importance of this extra funding will go a long way towards building a brighter future both for students and the community, said Sorensen. “We have to understand that the needs of children don’t begin at pre-K, they don’t begin at first grade. It’s a continuing factor, much the same way that they don’t end at the last year of school. We continue to learn into adulthood but here we have an opportunity for low income students to be given the things that they need to be able to level up. We have to give our kids a chance to succeed and that means that we need to start early because these are going to be the people who are going to take the jobs that we need and sustain us here in western Illinois and in the Quad Cities.”