Press Release

Release Date: July 10, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

The Chickasaw Nation Head Start (Head Start) program in Ardmore closed the 2024 academic year in May with a playing of the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance.” A procession of more than 60 children filed through the audience of friends and family to receive their first diploma. Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby and Lt. Governor Chris Anoatubby, along with other Chickasaw Nation dignitaries, presented the students with graduation certificates, marking the beginning of the students’ academic journeys.

“We are proud of all the students have accomplished this year,” Christina Hodges, Head Start center supervisor for the Ardmore area, said. “They have shown impressive perseverance and we applaud their hard work.”

The Head Start program has a successful decades long track record. Head Start provides children with a lifetime of benefits, including increased social-emotional functions, and Head Start graduates are more likely to finish high school and complete a secondary education.

The Chickasaw Nation Head Start program promotes school readiness for children ages 3 to 5 years old, providing support and assistance for each child to develop to their maximum potential, Tatum Sallee, Chickasaw Nation Director of Early Childhood Education, said.

Chickasaw Nation early childhood programs provide school readiness instruction and parent support. More than 300 children ages 3 to 5 are served in four communities. The Chickasaw Nation has operated the Head Start program for more than 45 years. The Chickasaw Nation Head Start program began serving the Chickasaw Nation in 1978, with a graduating class of 33 students.

The program is a comprehensive, family-focused resource, with developmentally appropriate preparation for educational success. Students have access to individualized education plans, health and wellness screenings, nutrition and family engagement, as well as cultural instruction. Upon graduation,  students are ready to succeed in kindergarten.

“Our commitment is to enhance our nation’s children and families through education,” Sallee said, addressing those gathered for the graduation. “Our students have completed the first step to building a strong foundation for growth and advancement. Thank you for entrusting your child to us this school year and we look forward to their continued success as they become our future leaders.”

Chickasaw Princess Abby Gaines, Chickasaw Junior Princess Jadyce Burns and Little Miss Chickasaw Jagger Underwood were present at the graduation, performing the invocation. Diplomas were presented by Governor Anoatubby, Lt. Governor Anoatubby and Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Education Nathan Elliott.

The Chickasaw Nation Ada Preschool program is tribally funded and serves Chickasaw citizens. The Head Start centers in Ardmore, Sulphur and Tishomingo are federally and tribally funded and have open enrollment. Applications for both programs are now open.

Graduation photos are available for families at

For additional program information, eligibility guidelines or applications, visit or call (580) 371-3216.