YSU and Alta Head Start Launch Preschool Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Enthusiastic preschoolers sat at tables making pumpkins of Play-Doh, while others were engaged with their teachers in another section of a new Model Classroom made possible because of a partnership between Alta Head Start and Youngstown State University.

“We set out right from the beginning to make a very high-quality, top-rated, innovative program,” Joseph Shorokey, executive director of Alta Care Group, said Wednesday. “This opportunity fit all of those bills, because we can work very closely with the university and bring a lot of support from different programs to our kids.”

Representatives of YSU and Alta formally kicked off their new partnership during a press conference at the Beeghly College of Education, site of the new YSU Learning Center Model Classroom.

The classroom serves as the central site for the Mahoning County Head Start/Early Head Start program. “Probably 80% of our student population is within 10 minutes of this facility,” Shorokey said. “We will provide transportation to the children through our busing service, but it also makes it easy for the parents.”

YSU’s Head Start classroom will start with about 15 students, with the potential to expand.

Among the health-related services the Model Classroom will provide through Head Start are speech, language, hearing, and vision screenings; oral health care; weight and height monitoring; nursing services; nutrition and behavior health support.

The partnership should also encourage increased participation through volunteerism. “Volunteerism is a huge, important factor in the Head Start program,” he remarked.

Alta Care Group, formerly D&E Counseling, assumed operations of Mahoning County’s Head Start program in July 2015, Shorokey said. The program is federally funded to serve 845 children throughout the county, and the goal of the YSU partnership is to enhance the quality of services and access to care.

“We have about 14 locations,” he noted. “We have 10 new ones in Youngstown City Schools. We have a Mahoning County Educational Services partnership, one in Sebring, one in Campbell – really all over town.”

Joseph Mosca, dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, said the partnership provides YSU with an opportunity to be even more engaged with the community. “It also provides us with the opportunity to provide our students with internship experience in social work, nursing, and the early childhood program,” he said. “It will be very beneficial that students will be part of this classroom.”

Twelve YSU students across several disciplines would be interns during any given semester, the dean said.

“It doesn’t get much better than this when you have the opportunity to help young people and their families,” added YSU President Jim Tressel. “This is exciting. We appreciate your confidence in us. And we have a lot of confidence in our colleges and faculty.”

Patrick O’Leary, assistant professor and coordinator of the early childhood program at YSU, described the partnership as ideal because Alta and the university share a common goal of improving the quality of life and education within the community. “I saw it as combined, we can fight the ill-effects of poverty better than we can alone,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

This effort allows for high-quality classrooms for student teachers and practicum students to gain firsthand experience with teachers and children, O’Leary said. “This gives us an opportunity right on campus, rather than having to drive off to see a classroom elsewhere.”

Pictured: Joseph Shorokey, executive director of Alta Care Group.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.