Action for Boston Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment, a local orga­ni­za­tion that empowers com­mu­nity mem­bers to over­come poverty and achieve their poten­tial, hon­ored North­eastern on Friday for the university’s long-​​standing sup­port for ABCD Head Start and Children’s Ser­vices programs.

At the event, Yvette Rodriguez, director of ABCD Head Start and Children’s Ser­vices, pre­sented com­mu­nity engage­ment awards to Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun and Robert Git­tens, the university’s vice pres­i­dent for public affairs. Git­tens accepted Aoun’s award on the president’s behalf. The awards honor those who have sup­ported ABCD Head Start in its efforts to pro­vide ser­vices to area fam­i­lies; they were pre­sented at an annual breakfast—held this year in the Curry Stu­dent Center—that rec­og­nizes par­ents for their vol­un­teer ser­vice to the program.

North­eastern has part­nered with ABCD Head Start and Children’s Ser­vices through the university’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures pro­gram, which was founded in 2009. Co-​​sponsored by Boston Children’s Hos­pital, the pro­gram aims to pre­vent early child­hood obe­sity by sup­porting healthy envi­ron­ments for chil­dren at home, in school, and in their com­mu­ni­ties. Pres­i­dent Aoun and Git­tens have served in crit­ical roles in estab­lishing, sup­porting, and growing the pro­gram, which includes research by North­eastern fac­ulty in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences aimed at curbing child­hood obe­sity in Boston’s neighborhoods.

The part­ner­ship with ABCD has been ter­rific for North­eastern Uni­ver­sity,” Git­tens said in his accep­tance speech.

Over the last four years, Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures pro­gram­ming has reached more than 500 Head Start fam­i­lies and staff mem­bers. These efforts include the Farm to Family pro­gram, which pro­vides low-​​income fam­i­lies with fresh pro­duce; an annual Walk Chal­lenge; the Open Gym pro­gram that gives par­ents and their chil­dren a weekly oppor­tu­nity to engage in phys­ical activity together; and a variety of nutri­tion classes.

ABCD Head Start and Children’s Ser­vices serves about 2,500 low-​​income chil­dren and their fam­i­lies each year, offering a variety of early child­hood edu­ca­tion, health, and case man­age­ment ser­vices at sites throughout the city.

At Friday’s break­fast, Git­tens stressed the cru­cial role parental involve­ment plays in helping chil­dren grow and suc­ceed. “Parental engage­ment is what makes Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures suc­cessful and the work of ABCD Head Start suc­cessful,” he explained. “It really is key to the future accom­plish­ments of your children.”

Rodriguez praised par­ents in atten­dance for helping ABCD Head Start rack up more than 5,000 hours of vol­un­teer ser­vice last year. She also empha­sized the impor­tance of devel­oping strong part­ner­ships with North­eastern and other local insti­tu­tions in an effort to make an impact in local communities.

This is a true example of a suc­cessful part­ner­ship that serves fam­i­lies,” Rodriguez said. “ABCD is extremely pleased with our involve­ment in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures part­ner­ship and the work we’ve accomplished.”