Tri-County Opportunities Council in Rock Falls lands $8M federal grant for Head Start programming

U.S. Rep. Sorensen announces over $12 million for early childhood education in western Illinois

Congressman and meteorologist Eric Sorensen reads a book chosen by the preschool class Wednesday, March 27, 2024 to students in the Head Start program at Wallace School in Sterling. Sorensen toured the school to ask how he can help strengthen the early childhood education program.

ROCK ISLAND – U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, a Democrat representing Illinois’ 17th District, has announced that more than $12 million in federal grant funding is being awarded for Head Start education programs in western Illinois.

The Tri-County Opportunities Council, based in Rock Falls, will receive $8.1 million, while a $4.2 million grant is being awarded to SAL Family and Community Services in Moline. The two grants were awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services and announced via a news release from Sorensen on Friday.

“Making sure our kids have access to the classroom is a critical step to putting our children on the road to success,” Sorensen said when making the announcement. “I’m proud to see our tax dollars coming back to western Illinois to support working families in the region and contribute to the growth of our communities.”

The Tri-County Opportunities Council was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in Illinois in May 1965 to investigate the incidence, location and character of poverty in the counties of Lee, Ogle and Whiteside and to develop a program for the elimination of poverty in those counties through the cooperative efforts of public agencies, private organizations and interested citizens under the terms and employing of the facilities of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

Now, TCOC organizes a wide range of services related to the needs of income-eligible people in Bureau, Carroll, La Salle, Lee, Marshall, Ogle, Putnam, Stark and Whiteside counties by using new types of services in attacking the causes of poverty, including the support of self-help groups and cooperative efforts of income-eligible people. Although the TCOC’s articles of incorporation have been amended four times since 1965 in order to add new counties and new programming, the purpose of the agency remains the same as it was in 1965, according to its website.

The Head Start program is a comprehensive child and family development program for preschool-aged children with a diagnosed disability and/or from families experiencing low income, according to the website. The program’s main goals are to work in partnership with parents to promote self-esteem, self-confidence and school readiness for children.

Components include educational services; medical health, dental health and mental health services; nutritional services; services to children with disabilities or special needs; family educational and development services; social services support and referrals; and transportation.

“The multigenerational approach of Head Start programs focuses on providing opportunities and addressing the needs of both children and their parents,” said Rachael DeSpain, director of Head Start at the Tri-County Opportunities Council.Funding through HHS provides countless benefits that appear immediately, last a lifetime and positively affect our communities and future generations. It has been proven that investing in high-quality early childhood education services such as Early Head Start/Head Start results in positive impacts on children and families of disadvantaged and under-resourced communities.”

According to TCOC’s website, its Head Start program serves more than 500 children and their families in Bureau, Carroll, La Salle, Lee, Marshall, Ogle, Putnam, Stark and Whiteside counties.

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Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.