Sure Start, the preschool program for children at risk for school failure, will begin again in Department of Defense elementary schools across the Pacific this September.

The program is designed to help 4-year-olds develop emotionally and socially and prepare them for academic life.

Sure Start is based on the successful Head Start program in the States that helps give children of low-income families the same early childhood advantages as their wealthier peers.

Sure Start consists of learning activities that include traditional academic subjects as well as music, art and outdoor play; health screenings; social services outreach; and mandatory parental involvement.

Almost 350 children are enrolled in the full-day program in mainland Japan, Okinawa and South Korea each year.

Visiting the home to meet with the child in their familial environment is a key aspect of the program, said Kim Bertola, supervisory education specialist for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools’ Japan District.

Parents also are required to volunteer in the classroom.

Applications for Sure Start are accepted throughout the year, but classes are limited to 18 children.

According to the Department of Defense Education Activity Web site, “children qualify for Sure Start based on family dynamics, which may put the child ‘at risk.’”

Such factors can include low birth weight, single-parent households, families with three or more siblings close in age, a parent whose first language is not English, a parent who did not graduate from high school and low family income.

Enrollment into Sure Start is decided by a review committee.

How to apply for Sure Start

¶ To be considered for the Sure Start program, a child must be 4 years old by Oct. 31.

¶ The sponsoring parent must be ranked E1-E4.

¶ In Pacific DODDS schools, the program start dates are as follows:

Okinawa District: Sept. 18.Korea District: Sept. 13.Japan District: Sept. 14.¶ Application materials can be picked up and turned in at the elementary school the child will attend.

— Stars and Stripes

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now