GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Where weeds once grew, a grand building now graces the property on Jackson Street.
"This is a beautiful building," commented Harrison County Supervisor William Martin.
Community leaders, parents, and toddlers gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the return of the Head Start program to north Gulfport.
"This is the beginning of the stopping of the drop outs. This is the beginning of cultivating minds for the future," said Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel.
Four-year-old Janay Carter helped cut the ribbon to dedicate the new center. She will be among the first students enrolled at the school.
When asked why she wants to go to school there, Janay replied "I like to play with my friends."
The 25,000 square foot facility replaces the old trailers that Katrina wiped away. The building features 12 large classrooms, fitness equipment just for the little ones, and a huge stainless-steel kitchen.
"So while the sting of Katrina has not entirely abated, not here, not anywhere, we have to be aware that without having to go through the difficulty, we wouldn't be here enjoying this blessing right now," said Linda Harvey-Irvin, the Head Start Director.
The center carries on the legacy of the late state Representative Isiah Fredericks.
"The honor of his memory with such a beautiful building is very emotional for me," said Yolonda Boone.
She fought back tears as she remembered her father's dream of better opportunities for children.
"And I don't know if he dreamed it this big. I don't know if he dreamed it this beautiful," she said with a smile.
"I would imagine that he's somewhere looking down, smiling and saying 'How sweet it is. How sweet it is to have such a facility,'" said Bobby Griffin, Head Start Region IV Branch Manager.
Now, the building that bears his name will help three and four-year-old children create their own visions as they prepare for Kindergarten.
"For every child that goes through that door, because these are going to be the people who will be our next presidents, our next leaders, and they are going to receive a quality education," said Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines.
The $4.5 million dollar center must undergo a final inspection by the Health Department before it can open. Just last week, the Head Start Center in Delisle opened its doors. Two more centers are under construction.