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Hundreds support International Day at Head Start

Photos by Kathy Jefcoats
 Head Start students step into sacks and hop across the field during Friday's annual celebration.

Photos by Kathy Jefcoats Head Start students step into sacks and hop across the field during Friday's annual celebration.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

Last year's International Day parade got rained out, so parents and teachers were grateful Friday that the sun shined on Clayton County Head Start's annual salute to nations.

"I just love it," said mom, Misty Couey, of Morrow. "Last year, it started to rain at the very beginning, so we're happy to have sunshine."

Couey's daughter, Faith Cauble, 5, represented Chile with the rest of Classroom D at the South Avenue Center, in Forest Part.

Each class, in each of the county's three Head Start centers, studied a nation and dressed the part for Friday's festivities that started with a parade.

"She's so excited about the day, and the outfit she gets to wear," said Couey.

Young Cauble is ending her two-year stint at the center and will begin kindergarten in the fall. Couey watched the parade with her son, Odin Hall, 16 months, and fiance, Dustin Hall.

Hall agreed that exposing the students to different cultures is beneficial. "It brings everyone together," he said. "I think it is great for the kids to celebrate people of all backgrounds and nations."

The International Day Celebration Program started in 2004, under the leadership of Clayton County Head Start Director Eme Isok-Nsuk. Isok-Nsuk is responsible for 352 Head Start students in Clayton: 209 at the South Avenue center, and the rest split between Riverdale and West Street centers.

"I think it is a great way to bring the community together and to close out the program at the end of the year," she said. "We've had quite a year, but got through it with the community's support."

After the parade, classroom winners were announced. Classroom B at the Riverdale Center took first prize of $100, for its representation and study of China. Teacher Angela Ware and co-teacher Gloria Montez went all out to expose their students to as much China-based culture as possible.

"We did a little bit of everything," said Ware. "We brought in a huge, stuffed panda and several smaller ones. We made a Chinatown where the kids designed houses. We even had a Chinese restaurant, with fish and sushi, and our curtains were made from the Chinese flag."

The teachers made sure students had access to Chinese books, magazines and newspapers, and they listened to Chinese music. The teachers spent two days in Chinatown, located in Doraville, buying supplies, including the Asian costumes they and the students wore Friday.

"The kids responded very well," said Ware. "When the judges came around to the classrooms for the competition, they were able to answer all the questions about China."

Sabby Cheathem's son, Timari Tolbert, 5, is part of that class.

"He has talked about it a lot and was so excited about International Day," she said. "It's a lot to learn, but he's excited about being exposed to different types of cultures. He loves the outfit he got to wear, and asked me if it was a ninja outfit. I told him it is. He thinks it's awesome."

Part of the celebration is the recognition of volunteer parents. Gary Johnson, South Avenue Center manager, said the awards are given based on the number of hours the parents give during the year. This year's first-place parent is Bernadette Baldwin, whose child is in the West Street Center. Second place went to Paula Merritt, at the South Avenue Center, and third place went to Tikari Booker at the Riverdale Center.

"We, at Head Start, are dedicated to children and families," said Johnson. "They are [modest-income] families, and any way we can help them out, we will. We work hard to get the students ready for the next level, which is kindergarten."