HCHRA administers the Head Start Program offering comprehensive child development services to more than 1,900 preschool children in Hinds County. The program has experienced exponential growth since its start in 1986, with 800 children enrolled. HCHRA operated 13 Head Start centers and 7 satellite classrooms that serve three and four-year-olds, and 4 Early Head Start centers which serve expectant
mothers and infants and toddlers from birth to age three.
HCHRA’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs serve around 2,345 children (including 75 who received special education) during an average school year. HCHRA staff attends to the developmental needs of these children in 106 classrooms, 5 days a week, for a minimum of 6 hours each day, with Head Start children attending school 168 days during the school year, and Early Head Start students attend 201 days.
While education is the principal focus, promoting health and stability in the homes of our Head Start families is just as important. The Head Start program helps qualifying children succeed educationally by providing activities to help them grow mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. The Head Start program is designed to educate three- and four-year-olds and prepare them to be developmentally ready to transition into kindergarten.
MEET OUR HEAD START & EARLY HEAD START LEADERSHIP TEAM
Chelsea Luster, a Proud Head Start alumnus, is the Vice President for Head Start and Early Head Start. Chelsea joined HCHRA in 2015.
Before this appointment, she was Associate Vice President of Head Start and Early Childhood Programs at HCHRA for nearly seven and a half years, during which, in addition to assisting with overall program operations, she supervised the activities of the 16 administrators helming each of the Head Start and Early Head Start Centers.
Before joining HCHRA, Chelsea worked as a Sr. Health Program Specialist for three years with the Mississippi State Department of Health, Office of Child Care Licensure. Her experience in coordinating training on childcare program regulations and policies/procedures for licensing is a valuable asset in ensuring the quality of our Head Start program. Chelsea’s mission is to work in partnership with others to ensure that all children and families have the opportunity to thrive and reach their optimum potential.
Chelsea graduated from Tougaloo College with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, emphasizing child development. She earned her master’s degree in health care administration at Mississippi College. She completed the Public Management and Leadership Program at JSU, sponsored by its Institute of Government, in the spring of 2016.
Michael R. Escalera
Michael R. Escalera joined HCHRA in 2017. He serves as the Director of Facilities and Field Services. He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) with a Middle-Level Education Math and Science degree.
Before joining the team, he worked for six years with an Arkansas Community Action Agency with their Weatherization Program. Over time, he became an Auditor and eventually became the Assistant Weatherization Director, where he helped the agency establish the first Multi-Family Weatherization Program in Arkansas.
Michael is certified as a Playground Inspector (Golden Co.), Quality Control Inspector, OSHA 30, and Weatherization Assistance Program (Pulaski Tech). Additionally, he has two years of experience working as a Head Start, Facilities Health and Safety Coordinator. He is passionate about providing a safe and healthy learning environment for our youth.
Aquanda M. Cummings, M. Ed
Aquanda S. Cummings joined HCHRA in 2023 as the Director of Children’s Services for Project Head Start. She has over 18 years of blended experience in social science instruction, school administration, and governmental affairs. She has a proven performance record in classroom instruction, program and grant management, and state-level policy review.
She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a master’s in education leadership and a bachelor’s in history education. She also possesses the L-5 School Administrators License and the 6-12 Social Sciences License.
Before joining the team, she held various positions with the Georgia Department of Education, such as Program Manager for the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, Program Manager for the Graduation Waivers and Variances program, Residential and Treatment Facilities Coordinator, and Educational Policy Analyst. She also has extensive experience in education leadership, having served as an Assistant Principal, Athletic Director (AD), Basketball Coach, Social Sciences Teacher, and Sixth Grade Level Chairperson.
Because of her extensive knowledge of program implementation, school administration, instructional design, and program management, she will be a great addition to Project Head Start.
LaKishia Shorter, ECE
LaKishia Shorter joined HCHRA in 2023 as a Center Administrator Mentor for Project Head Start. She has over 15 years of experience working with children and their families. She has a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from Jackson State University and a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies from Alcorn State University.
She began her career as a Child Welfare Specialist for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, working with at-risk children and families. Additionally, she has served as a Senior Health Program Specialist for the Mississippi Department of Health. Her educational experiences include serving as a Secondary Instructor with the Vicksburg-Warren School District, teaching courses in Child Development, Family Dynamics, and other related subjects. She also worked as an Early Childhood Education Technology Instructor/Adjunct for Hinds Community College, providing training and support to students pursuing careers in early childhood education.