The Birth of Head Start in Bayonne, N.J. – Summer of 1965
Did you know that back in 1964, Ida Zeik, the former principal of Lincoln School in Bayonne, N.J., played a pivotal role in crafting the legislation that guides Head Start today?
Ida Picker Zeik (1906-1993) was a true Bayonne enthusiast. She was not only an educator and scholar, but her research on Bayonne’s history alone could secure her a spot in the city’s history books. She belonged to the second of five generations of Picker women who called Bayonne home.
She was an advocate for education and the arts and served as the principal of Lincoln School. President Lyndon Johnson personally sought her expertise to help shape the concepts for the Head Start Program, arguably one of the most impactful educational reforms of the latter half of the 20th century.
Fast forward to the summer of 1965, where Head Start found its initial home in the basement of the YMCA, serving 60 children. It then moved to 25th Street, now the Forum, and expanded its enrollment to 98 children. The program eventually found its place in the PAL building.
In 1978, the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF) approached Mayor Dennis Collins with a proposal to utilize the vacant old City Hall Annex on 8th Street. The City of Bayonne agreed, granting Head Start a 99-year lease. The number of children served increased to 102, with six classrooms.
In 1987, the BEOF approached Mayor Rutkowski for funds to purchase the building at 557 Kennedy Blvd., establishing a second Head Start building to accommodate 34 more children.
The BEOF then joined forces with the Director of the Hudson County Chapter of the Red Cross to acquire a vacant building at 7 W. 9th Street. After renovation, it now serves 33 children.
Today, the Bayonne Head Start program boasts an enrollment of 156 children. It’s been 58 years since Bayonne’s young ones embarked on this exciting journey, ensuring they are fully prepared for the adventures of kindergarten.