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J.D. Clifton Head Start students attend the school’s Mardi Gras celebration with representatives of Krewe Chetu Jadi. (Nichole Osinski / American Press)

J.D. Clifton Head Start students attend the school’s Mardi Gras celebration with representatives of Krewe Chetu Jadi. (Nichole Osinski / American Press)

J.D. Clifton students get a head start on holiday

Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 5:36 PM

By Nichole Osinski / American Press

Students from J.D. Clifton Head Start kicked off their own Mardi Gras celebration Friday with parents, faculty and staff.

Students started the day with a Moving on Up program to help them transition into the pre-K program. Parents arrived at the school at 8:15 a.m. to partake in classroom activities with their children to give them a hands-on idea of what to expect next year. Principal Pamela Bell said about 45 Head Start students will stay in the school’s pre-K system.

“We wanted to give the parents an opportunity to see what is going on in the pre-K classes,” Bell said. “We wanted to have them be able to continue with us on the elementary side.”

Bell said she wants parents to have a knowledge of what their children will learn and will be ready to enroll them when registration opens Feb. 18-22. She said children learn about subjects students in Pre-K have already mastered. She said this prepares them on their path for college and a career.

This is the first year the school has provided the transition program. Bell worked with Head Start Director Lisa Causey to make Friday a day where they could also incorporate Mardi Gras.

After students finished their Pre-K activities they celebrated Mardi Gras with mini floats, costumes and a royal court. A group of students had been randomly chosen for the Mardi Gras court while their peers and parents looked on. A Head Start king and queen, followed by six other “royals,” were recognized and the Krewe Chetu Jadi, dressed in colorful costumes, joined in the festivities to talk about parade safety. Krewe Chetu Jadi, Swahili for “of our ancestors,” also has a strong connection to African American history and culture.

“We’re really getting into our cultural experience here at a tiny age,” Causey said. “Everybody’s really excited about it and we’re just trying to promote safety and promote our culture.”

The annual celebration gave students a chance to participate in their own Krewe De La Petite Eagles. Children topped off their in-school Mardi Gras with a parade through the school’s halls.

Paraprofessional Renee Maye said the celebration is a time for learning about the Mardi Gras colors, the different festivals and the history behind this vibrant event.

“I think it’s important for them to experience their own type of Mardi Gras,” Maye said. “Mardi Gras is such a big celebration with a lot of adults so the children get to have their fun and during Mardi Gras time they’ll understand it and as they grow they’ll learn more and more about it.”

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