MERCED COUNTY, Calif. - The County Office of Education has used both Head Start and Early Head Start for over 10 years.
They're free day care and preschool programs for low income families, but families and school officials say its much more than that.
At five years old Izael owns his own store, excels at customer service, and knows how to prepare an entire meal. These interactions are the way he learns; fun ways to develop social, motor, and cognitive skills.
"He knows all his colors and shapes, he knows how to count to 80 and he's only 5 years old. So it's a really good advantage that he has, and watching him grow here, make friends, he knows how to be social with others, he knows how to share," said Juana Nava, Izael's mom
He is a part of Merced county's Head Start program and has been since he was 6 months old.
"You've got to take advantage of it and take the opportunity to watch your child grow," said Nava.
Thanks to that his mom was able to return to school and get a teaching job, all while Izael was being cared for.
"It was exciting to watch him come home and tell me the sky was blue and the grass was green," said Nava.
The federally funded program provides educational programs and resources to children from birth to 5 and their families.
"Comprehensive services-- anything a family may need to make them successful in life we are able to provide that for them, hook them up with services in the comm available for them," stated head Start Director, Linda Kaercher.
Kaercher says children need a healthy and stimulating environment.
"Already by the time a child is 3-5 years old so much of their personality is set and so much for their development has been missed," she said.
Head Start teachers see success stories like Nava's and want to break any stigma behind receiving government assistance.
"I always used to tell the parents that I serve you; don't know who is in the trenches with you until you talk to them you are seeing who they are and what they are going through. We are all in this together and I am helping you and you are helping me and that's the basis of Head Start," said teacher Brianna Oneto.
"It helped me become who I wanted to become. I love my job that I have working with students...it's a pleasure to wake up in the morning knowing my son is going to a good place and I am going to a happy place."
There are 20 positions open in Head Start.
For information visit the Merced County Office of Education.