Greg Cantori, Graduate of Head Start’s First Summer, Looks Back
In the spring of 1965, Head Start staff went door to door in Greg Cantori’s Chicago neighborhood. At each house, they spoke to families about a brand new federal program, then called, “Project Head Start.” The new program was part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s recently declared “War on Poverty.” As it does today, it offered comprehensive child development and health services to families below the poverty line. Initially designed as a summer program, in its first year, Project Head Start ran for eight weeks from June until August.
After learning of the program, the Cantori family eagerly enrolled their young son. Nearly 50 years later, Greg’s mother still remembers the exact address where she dropped him off for his first day.
In June of 1965, Greg had no idea that he was among the very first Head Start students. Nor did he know that similar sites were gearing up across the country to serve 560,000 children and families that summer. Greg mostly remembers the “warmth and care” he experienced during the program and the diversity of his fellow classmates. Looking back, he appreciates the “incredible cooperation, partnerships, and dedication” the program asked of “elected officials, public servants, teachers, parents, and staff.”
Now serving as the President and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, Greg has many certificates, awards, and diplomas hanging throughout his office. Among them, he says he is “most proud of my 1965 Head Start certificate of completion.” The certificate, dated Aug. 20, 1965, is signed by Sargent Shriver and Lady Bird Johnson, early champions of the Head Start program. Proudly displaying the certificate in his office reminds Greg of his successes and his “sense of gratitude.” To him, it also represents “all that is just and good in putting children and families absolutely first and foremost.”