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UMass Donahue Institute wins $11 million federal award to improve early childhood programs across New England

The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded $11 million, over five years, to help strengthen over 100 community-based Head Start programs serving over 30,000 children across New England.

The Administration For Children and Families, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the funds to the UMass Donahue Institute, a division of the UMass President's Office. The grant is one of 12 awarded to regions across the country, but it is the only such grant awarded to a higher education institution.

The UMass Donahue Institute will form a 22-member team of early childhood experts and support personnel to assist with program development; assure that Head Start programs across the region meet high standards; create new training programs for early childhood professionals; and make the expertise of UMass child development faculty available to Head Start agencies throughout New England.

"This is an important opportunity to bring Head Start programs in Massachusetts the resources and support they need to continue developing the Head Start workforce and providing the highest quality of services to children and families," said U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. "The University of Massachusetts and the Donahue Institute are known for their excellent work in the Commonwealth and throughout the region, and I congratulate them on this grant award."

"I am delighted with this exciting collaboration that brings the expertise of the prestigious UMass Donahue Institute and the University's abundant academic resources to work with ACF and New England's Head Start programs," said Hugh Galligan, the Regional ACF Administrator. "This initiative will ensure that Head Start children receive quality, comprehensive childhood and family services, and acquire the necessary learning, literacy and social skills to be successful in school."

"This grant fully engages the University in perhaps the most important issue facing the long-term economic and social health of our communities - the education and nurturing of New England's children," said interim UMass President Jack M. Wilson. "As the only academic institution to be awarded the grant, we look forward to bringing the University's unique education and research capabilities to this critical mission."

Among the key goals of Head Start is to increase the percentage of early childhood teachers who have bachelor's degrees. UMass is currently designing plans to provide accessible education and professional development opportunities. "We want to mobilize our teaching expertise and technology to deliver first-rate early childhood care and education throughout New England," said UMass Donahue Institute Executive Director Dr. Lynn Griesemer.

The UMass Amherst University Without Walls program has already begun developing a degree completion program and is planning to pilot the program in the Greater Springfield area starting this winter. Meanwhile, UMass Online, the university's nationally recognized five-campus distance learning initiative, is developing web-based child development degree programs that will first be marketed in New England but eventually to the rest of the country.

In addition, UMass faculty and staff from the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester Medical School campuses will be placed on an expert consulting list that will be made accessible to the 100 Head Start programs across New England.

Leading the 22-member team will be Dee Bertozzi, former Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth and Family Policy for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. While at EOHHS, Ms. Bertozzi also served as Director of Child Care/Head Start Policy. She holds a law degree from Wayne State University, where she specialized in children's policies and issues, and is a member of the Massachusetts Bar. Her master's degree in child development is from Tufts University; and her bachelor's degree is from William Smith College in Geneva, New York.

Most recently, Ms. Bertozzi served as the Massachusetts Head Start-State Collaboration Project director. Prior to that she was the Early Childhood Administrator for the Medford Public Schools and has worked in various other educational and law related positions.

Head Start and Early Head Start are comprehensive early childhood and prenatal development programs serving children from birth to age 5 and their families. Head Start has the overall goal of increasing children's school readiness, especially the learning, literacy and social skills of low-income children.

Early Head Start promotes healthy pregnancy outcomes, healthy family functioning and enhances the development of infants and toddlers. Both Head Start and Early Head Start are important early learning and social experiences which support child and family development. Programs are delivered at the local level through community-based, non-profit human services and educational organizations.

As part of a federally-funded national network, Head Start/Early Head Start sites must conform to established guidelines in order to deliver consistently high-quality and cost-efficient services. External training, technical assistance and accessible expert knowledge in specific topics are crucial resources to local program managers and staff working with young children and their families. The proposed regional team of experts will increase the skills of local program providers and improve service quality at the community level.

The UMass Donahue Institute is the public service, outreach and economic development unit of the University of Massachusetts President's Office. Established in 1971, the Institute strives to connect the Commonwealth with the resources of the University, bridging theory and innovation with real world public and private sector applications.

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The UMass Donahue Institute is pre-approved to offer a variety of options for streamlined, simplified contracting both within Massachusetts and at the federal level.

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UMass Donahue Institute

University of Massachusetts

Office of the President

100 Venture Way, Suite 9

Hadley, Massachusetts 01035

(413) 545-0001

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