New Head Start learning facility opens in Gardena

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NOW OPEN—Mayor Tasha Cerda does the ribbon-cutting honors Sept. 24 at the Grand Opening of the Aloha Learning Center at 13000 S. Van Ness Ave., Gardena (sharing the site of the Hollypark United Methodist Church). Others pictured, from left, are Nubia Juarez, regional site director; Councilman Rodney Tanaka; trustee chairman Charles Andrews; Mayor Cerda; Kerry Doi, president and CEO of PACE (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment); and Kellie Konysky. PACE director, Education Division. The learning center opened for business a week prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by Gary Kohatsu

Aloha Center shares site of Hollypark United Methodist Church

By Gary Kohatsu

With a premium on education today, young children of low-income families face a stonewall of issues. But there is some relief in the form of Head Start and Early Head Start services that are free to qualifying families.

Aloha Learning Center, which opened on Sept. 16, is the fourth such facility in Gardena established by the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment, known by its acronym of PACE.

The new Aloha Learning Center is located at the Hollypark United Methodist Church at 13000 S. Van Ness Ave., Gardena.

There are eight classrooms divided between Early Head Start children, which is 0 to age 3, and Head Start youth, ages 3 to 5. The goal is to fill the Early class with 32 toddlers, while the Head Start program can serve 120 children, Kellie Konysky, director of the PACE Education Division.

Karin Berry serves as the Early Head Start site director, while Nubia Juarez is the Regional Site director. The programs are federally funded and parents pay no fees, if they meet a qualifying standard.

Requirements for Eligibility include:

  1. Age verification (birth certificate, passport)
  2. Income Verification (W-2 form, 1040 tax form) – families with incomes below the HHS Poverty Guidelines are eligible for the program.
  3. Address verification (utility bill, CA ID card, Driver’s license)
  4. If family is receiving public assistance (i.e. TANF/CalWorks, Supplemental Security Income – SSI) then they are considered Categorically Eligible and do not need to verify their income
  5. If the child is a foster child or in transition (i.e. homeless), they are considered Categorically Eligible and do not need to verify their income
  6. PACE can accept no more than 10% of families who are over the HSS Poverty Guidelines (i.e. if total enrollment is 870, we can’t have more than 87 families who are considered over income)
  7. PACE must enroll at least 10% of children with a current Individual Education Plan (IEP) and/or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)

Konysky said that PACE Education Division currently serves 870 Head Start children (ages 3 to 5 years) and 318 Early Head Start children (ages 0 to 36 months). There are 16 fully licensed centers in Los Angeles, the South Bay and Venice, as well as Home Based services.

Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE) has been providing Head Start services for over 30 years as a delegate agency of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE).

“Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE) has been providing Head Start services for more than 30 years as a delegate agency of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE),”  Konysky added.

“St. John Preschool at 14517 Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena was PACE’S first current education site, serving preschool aged children (3-5 years) and we have operated here since September 2003,” Konysky said.

Bright Starts Preschool came along 12 years later.  It is located at 14627 S. Western Ave., Gardena. This site serves preschool-aged children (3-5 years), as well as socialization services for 0-3 years oldsand we have operated here since February 2015,” Konysky said.