Four Children First representatives honored by Florida Head Start Association

Three proceed to competition for regional and national honors

Image courtesy of Children First

Four representatives of Children First in Sarasota have been honored by the Florida Head Start Association “for their impact in elevating excellence across Florida’s Head Start Community,” Children First has announced.

“As the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, Children First serves nearly 1,100 individuals daily at multiple sites across Sarasota, Venice, and North Port,” a news release explains. “The agency has been ranked in the top 1% of more than 1,800 programs nationwide and is a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence.”

Kathleen Sullivan, Children First’s vice president of programs was honored with the Aubrey Puckett Memorial Award, the release notes. As a former Head Start parent, Sullivan “was recognized for demonstrating passion for and commitment to serving through advocacy as both a current staff member and Head Start alumna, the release adds.

Leah Jones, Children First parent and Policy Council vice chair, was recognized with the Beating the Odds Award “for overcoming significant challenges on her journey to self-sufficiency,” the release says.

Program Operations Coordinator LaShawn’te Lee received the award for Head Start staff in pursuit of higher education and was recognized by the state association for her contributions to both Children First and the community, the release continues.

Jane Shaw, early learning inclusion coordinator, received the Achievement Award for Disabilities Services, which “recognizes exceptional performance in the delivery of services to children with disabilities and supporting parents in their role as advocates for their children,” the release notes.

As winners at the state level, Jones and Shaw will advance to the Region IV Head Start Association level as category finalists, representing more than 170,000 children, 40,000 staff, and 300 programs across the Southeastern United States, the release points out. Sullivan’s nomination will advance to the National Head Start Association level, as she is a Region IV category finalist, representing more than 1 million children and their families across the country.

“The honorees exemplify high-quality early education, family, and community support that has made Head Start and Early Head Start the gold standard both state and nationwide,” the release adds.

Founded in 1961, “Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being,” the release explains. For more information, call 941-953-3877 or go to