Oil City’s CDC Gets $40 Million Grant to Run Head Start Program in Erie

Caleb Gilliland

Caleb Gilliland

Published June 12, 2019 4:45 am

ERIE, Pa. — Child Development Centers, Inc. (CDC) has obtained a five-year, $40 million grant to operate the federal Head Start program in the city of Erie.

CDC secured the $7.9 million-a-year award from the Administration for Children & Families, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, after submitting the successful proposal in a competitive application process.

With the grant – CDC’s largest ever – the non-profit organization celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year will serve 680 children and be the lone provider of federal Head Start services in the city of Erie for at least a five-year period starting July 1.

Head Start is the federal government’s preschool program for children from economically disadvantaged households. A family’s income must be at or below the federal poverty level – currently $25,750 for a family of four – for children to enroll in Head Start, which is intended to prepare children for a successful transition to kindergarten and elementary school.

CDC already serves about 400 Head Start children in Venango and Crawford counties after acquiring a five-year, $19 million grant in the summer of 2016. In addition, CDC serves 40 children through the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program and 40 children through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program.

“We are extremely excited to be able to expand our services to the city of Erie and provide high-quality early childhood education to an area in great need,” said CDC Executive Director Rina Irwin, who is a native of Erie and a graduate of Strong Vincent High School.

CDC continually looks for opportunities to expand its early childhood learning programs and services, and when the government opened the Head Start grant application process for Erie, the organization jumped on the opportunity, according to Irwin, who has been CDC’s chief executive for more than 20 years.

CDC anticipates opening five different sites for classrooms in Erie, including both the east and west sides of the city. The specific locations of those classrooms have yet to be determined. More information will be released as it becomes available.

Coupled with CDC’s current population, the addition of 680 Head Start children would increase the organization’s total enrollment beyond 1,700, according to Irwin, who said CDC will work closely with federal Head Start representatives for the next several months as it prepares to launch Head Start in Erie on Sept. 9.

CDC is making it a priority to continue serving all eligible children and families who participated in the Head Start program with the previous grantee. Irwin said the organization is eager to welcome those families in Erie so CDC can begin building relationships with them and helping their children’s preschool experience continue to thrive.

Any children or families who live in the outlying communities are encouraged to reach out to a service provider in their area for information on their Pre-K Counts programs as CDC will be specifically serving children in the city limits where the need is the greatest.

CDC plans to have 36 total classrooms in the city with a capacity of 15 to 20 children per room. In order to staff those locations, the organization will be looking to hire about 170 new employees.

Former employees of the previous grantee are welcome to apply to any of the open positions at CDC, and they can do so by visiting www.cdcenters.org/employment. Some job opportunities will include teaching staff, food service workers, administrative/support staff, bus drivers, and more.