MOUNT VERNON — Arriving on two Head Start buses, the 2010 Ohio Junior Miss participants started Thursday off with a little education and a lot of interaction with the preschoolers at the New Hope Early Education Center.
In Bethany Wilson’s classroom of 3 to 5 year olds, children were eating or putting puzzles together when four junior misses came through the door. Many were happy to see the new faces, some were apprehensive but eventually warmed up to the young women.
“This is really great,” said Greater Knox County Junior Miss Tabytha Arthur as she helped three students put together pieces of a puzzle.
Central Delaware County Junior Miss Brittany Flannigan quickly made friends with Caleb A. after watching birds outside the classroom window. Before long, Caleb was showing her how to build a structure from plastic play pieces and together they watched Caleb roll a marble from the top to the bottom. Their personal excitement was infectious and drew the attention of several of the other children to their project area.
Joelle Ballone, Greater Mahoning County Junior Miss, along with Morgan Brauner, Franklin County Junior Miss, helped the children with puzzles and smelled the artificial flowers from the “flower shop” in the class.
“The kids just love moments like this,” said Wilson. “We welcome everyone to our room. It’s good for the children to interact with other people and they love the individual attention.”
Providing young children with a solid educational foundation for kindergarten is crucial to their future successes in life, Jen Odenweller, director of the United Way of Knox County, told the young women prior to their outreach in the Head Start classrooms.
“Today you have the opportunity to learn more about the importance of early learning while lending a hand,” Odenweller said.
The community service program, developed through a partnership with OJM and the United Way, was designed to offer an opportunity to allow the young women to explore the importance and personal relevance of volunteering in their own communities.
“Your efforts, in just a little bit of time, will impact young children in Knox County as we work hard in our community to prepare them to ultimately be successful, stable, contributing adults ... all by preparing them for kindergarten,” Odenweller said.
Lori Jones, associate director of Knox County Head Start, explained how Head Start works and the families that utilize the services. In addition, she explained the importance of volunteers to Head Start and how every minute helps.
“We use volunteers at all of our centers and they come once or twice a week,” Jones said. “We also have two colleges within a five-mile radius. Those student volunteers really help to give individual attention.”
Depending on the activity in the various classrooms, OJM participants had the opportunity to read books to the students, play games and even join in a sing-a-long.
“The children really enjoyed the Junior Miss candidates spending time in their classroom. The children were disappointed when it was time for the girls to go. Having them visit provided the children with both social and emotional support,” said preschool teacher Jamie Snow.
In addition to visiting the classrooms, the young ladies toured the Head Start facility and helped prepare for Saturday’s Lets Get Ready to Learn program at the New Hope Early Education Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Ohio Junior Miss Scholarship Program kicks off two nights of entertainment tonight at the Memorial Theater. Tonight’s program begins at 8. Saturday’s start time is 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door one hour prior to start times.