Head Start

Head Start offers families the skills they need to enhance their children’s development from ages three to five.

Who is eligible for Head Start?

Families with children from ages three to five years who reside in one of the targeted zip codes and whose family income is at or below specific federal income guidelines.
Note: Children must be between 3 years old or 4 years old on August 15, 2021

Interest FORM

What is Head Start?

Head Start is a comprehensive program designed to foster the healthy development of young children, providing services to promote academic, social and emotional development, as well as providing social, health and nutrition services for income-eligible families.

  • We provide services and accommodations to serve infants and toddlers with severe, moderate, or mild disabilities.
  • On a limited basis, families with income above federal poverty guidelines may be eligible.


To offer a top-quality pre-school education for more than 4,500 of the highest risk children in Shelby County annually, plus support for their families, completely free of charge.


A child’s development begins in the earliest moments of life, with social and cognitive skills that affect their ability to enter school and succeed. Yet children from many low-income families are often not afforded the same opportunities to develop these skills as other children. Porter-Leath’s Head Start program for preschool children ages 3 to 5 ensures these children develop to the best of their ability and receive all of the building blocks necessary to be successful in school. Porter-Leath Head Start offers a comprehensive combination of quality home-based family services and on-site educational programs completely free of charge. 

Services Provided 

  • Individualized early childhood development resources
  • Health and developmental screenings, including speech, hearing, vision and lead exposure
  • Medical, dental and mental health services
  • Parental involvement and education, including nutritional counseling
  • Extended onsite care for working parents
  • In-home family support and counseling
  • Disability services for children that are mild, moderate or severe.


  • Enhanced school readiness for low-income children
  • Guaranteed quality of services through a unique management structure, monitoring, training and content development
  • Full range of highly qualified and trained staff comprised of teachers, assistants, family service and health workers and nutritionists

Other Facts 

  • Clients qualify based on the child’s age and the family’s zip code and income level.
  • Clients are recruited through the media, staff and parent referrals, referrals through community partners, walk-ins and other Porter-Leath programs.
  • Head Start funds are provided by Shelby County Schools. Additional funding for both programs is provided through United Way of the Mid-South and private donations.


While celebrating its 150th year, Porter-Leath opened the Golightly Early Head Start Center in 2000 with Douglass and American Way Head Start to follow in 2001 and 2002, respectively. In 2006, Porter-Leath Early Head Start, Douglass and American Way Head Starts all received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), one of the highest sets of professional standards for early childhood education programs in the United States. In 2012, Porter-Leath expanded preschool services by partnering with KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools to provide preschool services for 5 classrooms. In 2013, Porter-Leath added the Frayser Head Start and Child Development Center and expanded preschool services through a partnership with eleven ASD schools in Shelby County.

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Your monthly gift provides on-going support!

Need some ideas?


$5 -   New gross motor skill toy monthly for one classroom
$10 - New book monthly for one classroom 
$25 - Field trip for one classroom
$50 - Teacher supply kits for enhanced learning activities
$75 - Parent training classes and recognition