Jacqueline Mercer

Sylvia Martinez-Flores and Jacqueline J. Mercer look at old photo albums from the Brazoria County Head Start program recently at the nonprofit’s office in Angleton.

It’s difficult not to feel some disappointment that the reach of Brazoria County Head Start is being diminished. The program, led for more than 40 years by the late Evelyn Wright Moore, had a phenomenal reach among county families.

The seven campuses that prepared area children for school — and life — will be split between two organizations now. Local Head Start programs are required to reapply for federal grant funding through the national headquarters every five years, and this time, the leadership in Washington opted to give four campuses to Austin-Upbring Head Start Preschool.

Brazoria County Head Start will keep its facilities in Angleton, Alvin and Lake Jackson, while Upbring now will operate in Freeport, Sweeny, Alvin and Pearland.

“I was disappointed at the decision, however, we will continue to provide quality services to the children, which is our ultimate concern,” Brazoria County Head Start CEO Jaqueline Mercer said. “We welcome our new neighbor as we continue to operate and serve the community.”

That disappointment should not be misconstrued as predetermining the type of work Upbring will do. It has a good reputation, already operating Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Wharton, Bay City, El Campo and Palacios, and its board includes a representative from Freeport LNG, so the organization will have some familiarity with the region and type of clientele it will be serving.

Still, having had a small, separate organization run by our neighbors makes it feel like a big company is buying out the mom-and-pop. While the products and pricing at the megastore might be great, there still is some sadness and having lost something solely our own.

For both organizations, what cannot be lost is that strong community support is necessary for them — and the roughly 500 children and their families — to receive top-quality, effective educational services.

“One thing we’re excited about with this new program is the emphasis placed on parent engagement,” Sweeny ISD Superintendent Tory Hill said. “This includes parent training and parent-school relationships. They’ll also have a focus on social-emotional needs, nutrition and cleanliness, so we definitely share strategic goals.”

Each year at Brazoria County Head Start’s banquet, one of the most heartwarming moments came when it would present scholarships to the program’s graduates. Those students, born into less than ideal economic and social circumstances, had achieved in their young lives in part because of the foundations Head Start provided.

Upbring and Brazoria County Head Start are both quality organizations we will entrust to continue providing the services that will pave the way for children from lower-income families to pave the course to live themselves up into a brighter future. Both can count on strong community support to help them achieve that mission.

This editorial is written by Michael Morris, managing editor of The Facts.

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