LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - While looking for a way to get its students involved in an inclusive event, Lil Panthers Head Start program in Lufkin found inspiration in an event that much older students are also preparing for this time of year: prom.
Head Start programs serve low-income families and children with disabilities. The prom event came together as an idea by parents and teachers who believed there was a need to build and foster relationships between parents and students.
“We wanted to have something where our families could come together and build a relationship with each other, so we decided to do a prom,” said Brandie Roberts, family advocate specialist with Lil Panthers. “Now, in the past, we have done a father and daughter dance, but we wanted something that will have everyone included in it.”
The event is free for Head Start families. In fact, Roberts said part of her job is to provide families with everything they need to attend.
“So far, all parents are on board that’s coming, so I didn’t have to get any kind of resources for them because they were so excited about it, so they were able to go out and purchase what they needed,” Roberts added.
“As a family advocate specialist, we do reach out to the community to help our families, and so we do have some people in the community who are willing to help us in this event by donating food, gift cards, things like that,” said Trisha Jolly, family advocate specialist with Lil Panthers.
Rosaline Humphrey has a granddaughter who graduated from the Head Start program, and another who is currently enrolled. As an event planner, Humphrey helped coordinate the event for free, which included finding a building where the prom could be held at no charge, and a DJ who would volunteer his services.
Humphrey said part of the reason why programs like Head Start are so important is because it serves as a starting point for children who may not otherwise have such an opportunity.
“To me, it’s the foundation,” said Humphrey. “It starts building the foundation that they’re going to need later in life. Most people just don’t know about it, just don’t know that it’s here. Maybe with this program, people will become aware that there is Head Start here in Lufkin and they have two centers.”
Lil Panthers’ prom event will be held Friday, March 22 at Shake It Up Studios in Lufkin. While the event will be held exclusively for Head Start families, Humphrey said she hoped the event would spark a connection between the school and the community it serves.
“I’m hoping that this will be the first and many proms and events that Head Start will have here in Lufkin, and like they said, build relationships,” said Humprey. “That it will build relationships between parents and the community as well. And maybe the community will see Head Start as a vital part of the community.”