The Cherokee Nation is investing millions of dollars to build new early childhood learning facilities.
“We’ve invested so much that it’s a home away from home for several children,” said Verna Thompson.
Thompson is the director of the Cherokee Nation’s early childhood unit. It’s a passion she’s had for nearly four decades.
“I do it because of the milestones we get to witness of all the children, whether it’s walking, talking, self-help skills,” Thompson said.
Thompson also oversees Head Start, a program that cares for nearly 1,000 disadvantaged children from toddlers to Pre-K.
“We not only develop the children, but we also develop our staff. Our staff do a wonderful job and some of them are former students here,” Thompson said.
The program is decades old and the buildings, which have been around even longer, are getting dilapidated.
The Cherokee Nation is investing millions to rebuild the locations.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced the nation will spend $40 million to build new head start facilities in Tahlequah, Nowata, Kenwood, Jay, Stilwell, Sallisaw and Salina.
“We have a first-class staff at our Head Start facility. We provide first class instruction. Meanwhile, we don’t have is first class facilities. This will change that,” Hoskin said.
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said they will build completely new facilities in different locations and will repurpose the old buildings.
“The things that we really want to incorporate are going to be culture and language as much as we possibly can into the design. Obviously one of the things that we want to make sure safety is paramount in our facility,” Enlow explained.
The tribe will start construction by the end of the year on two facilities.