By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Governor Kay Ivey recently honored a local woman posthumously whose efforts and dedication affected the lives of children and families throughout Etowah County for generations.
Ivey issued a proclamation recognizing August 17, 2020 as Kathryn Barrett Day, representing an unforgettable impact on a community and a cherished legacy that remains strong, hopeful and effective to this day.
Kathryn Barrett (pictured above) served as the Director of the Etowah County Head Start program since its establishment in 1965. Introduced during U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s campaign and manifested by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Head Start program launched as “a bipartisan national commitment to give every child, regardless of the zip code into which they were born, an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.” Designed to initiate a genuine love of learning and encourage a healthy sense of curiosity, Head Start cultivates a child’s readiness for school regardless of their circumstances, promoting educational experiences, physical and mental health and the positive involvement of parents and families in the child’s life.
Formerly a teacher at Carver High School in Gadsden, Barrett understood the importance of developing a solid educational foundation for children as a stepping stone to their success in life. While she taught the basic and fundamental American ideals in her high school government class, when Barrett became director at Head Start, she gained the opportunity to witness those ideals in the making.
“All I could do in the classroom was talk about it,” Barrett told a local reporter in the 1980s. “[At Head Start], I can pursue daily opportunities to make the dreams of individualism and human dignity come true.”
Barrett possessed an optimistic mentality that translated into her responsibilities at Head Start. She believed that individuals can program themselves for success through deliberate efforts and resources available to them, and that if disadvantaged individuals were presented with experiences and opportunities designed to foster success, they will become motivated to accomplish their goals. Barrett committed herself to serving as a resource for children’s success, nurturing their dreams and aspirations for life while equipping them with beneficial tools to guide them along their paths.
In addition to her efforts at Head Start, Barrett flourished as a commendable resident of Etowah County, serving as the member of multiple non-profit boards, a dedicated servant of Sweet Home United Methodist Church and an educator whose influence affected the hearts and minds of her students for decades.
Ivey’s full proclamation states:
“Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was the founding director and Executive Director of the Gadsden Progress Council Head Start Program for over 35 years; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was a member of several Non-profit Boards including the Carver High School Museum Restoration Board, Safety Board of Etowah County, Etowah County Chamber of Commerce, United Way and Gadsden Beautification Board; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was a member and committed servant at Sweet Home United Methodist Church; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was a Civic Teacher with Gadsden Public School System; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was former President of the Alabama Head Start Association; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett received Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from Alabama A&M and Indiana Universities, respectively; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett personally befriended many of her Head Start students, encouraging them in later life to enter college; and
Whereas, Kathryn Barrett was a pillar to children and families throughout Etowah County whose voice was one of love and compassion for those in need;
Now, therefore, I, Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama, do herby proclaim August 17, 2020 as Kathryn Barrett Day.”
The Gadsden and Etowah County Head Start’s Mission states that the program “subscribes to the philosophy that everyone has individual worth. It is further believed that one’s quality of life can be significantly improved if appropriate experience and opportunities are provided by Head Start, coupled with community linkages to generate productivity, self-esteem and self-sufficiency of the Head Start family. This agency is compelled to assist families in recognizing their determination and reinforcement of existing strengths to the fruition of children’s and families’ social competence.”
For more information on the local Head Start program, visit www.facebook.com/gadsden.headstart.73 or call 256-546-7431.