$5M from casinos builds O'odham Head Start centers - Saturday 12th of March 2005

TucsonAZUSA - Using about $5 million in casino revenues, the Tohono O'odham Nation has built three Head Start centers in rural areas of the reservation where tribal leaders say the need is greatest.

Community leaders, educators, child-care workers and families took part in a special dedication ceremony Wednesday at two centers in Vaya Chin Village and Santa Rosa. A dedication for the third center, in Pisinemo, will take place next month.

Vivian Juan-Saunders, the nation's chairwoman, said the state-of-the-art Head Start centers will offer children in remote parts of the reservation critical educational services early on.

"It really starts at that level, giving them the foundation that's necessary for lifelong learning," she said.

Until now, Juan-Saunders said, child care and early-education programs were limited to a few modular buildings and in-home visits.

The new 10,000-square-foot centers will serve about 100 infants, toddlers and preschoolers up to age 5.

The nation also equipped the centers with new buses, computer systems and playground equipment, she said.

The Tohono O'odham operates two Desert Diamond casinos in the Tucson area and the Golden Ha:san Casino near Why.

It really starts at that level, giving them the foundation that's necessary for lifelong learning.Vivian Juan-SaundersTohono O'odham nation chairwoman

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