It's not clear how much the awarding of more than $11 million over a five-year period by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to the Gloucester-based Pathways for Children program will actually affect the local children and families Pathways already serves from its Emerson Avenue headquarters.
That's because the grant — for a budget of $2.3 million per year — actually allows Pathways to take over management of Head Start programs from Beverly to Boxford that had been administered by the behavioral health wing of Northeast Health Systems.
In fact, Pathways Executive Director Sue Todd and Chief Operating Officer Caroline Haines note that the agency's Head Start expansion into those communities will not, in any way, take away from the Head Start program here, which already serves 375 children from Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex and Ipswich. The pickup of the other programs puts an additional 232 children under Pathways' wing.
Winning the grant and the expanded North Shore contract, however, certainly provides even more stability for an agency and Head Start program that has carved out a greater and greater niche for serving Gloucester and Cape Ann families and children. And, perhaps more importantly, it is a ringing endorsement for Pathways and its Gloucester-based Head Start program.
This grant is not just a renewed federal investment early-childhood education. It also drives home the point that Pathways has been on the right track toward giving Cape Ann's children and families the "head start" they need for school. That — and this grant — are something to celebrate.