LEXINGTON, S.C. — SC First Steps is investing $5.5M of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, known as ESSER funds, to expand their Parent-Educator program to reach more families with children five and younger across the state.
The program's goal is to support parents as their child's first teacher and provide the tools to better prepare kids for school.
"It’s helping me become the best mom I could be, and also teach my kids the best of themselves," said Lexington County parent Rosa Linda Contreras, who participates in the program through Lexington County First Steps.
Contreras said over the last 15 years, the program has supported her five kids.
"I believe all those years of the early care-educator program helped them be really involved in school stuff," Contreras said.
SC First Steps executive director Georgia Mjartan told News 19, Midlands counties received $1.9M from the $5.5M grant.
"A lot of parents that I’ve talked to don’t know how to work with their child, to get their 3-year-old child ready for math success," Mjartan said. "So, a parent educator can help the family figure that out. They bring great resources to the home."
According to data from SC Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, families who participate in these parent-educator program are 75% more likely to be ready for school.
With the funds given to the Midlands counties, parents like Contreras are able to become educators themselves—taking their experiences and help other parents in need.
"If I could help them become the best they can be, as I did with my kids, it’s very rewarding. I believe I could really teach and help the parents also," Contreras said.
The following Midlands counties received funding:
- Clarendon County First Steps: $312,800 to expand Parents as Teachers
- Fairfield County First Steps: $152,632 to expand Parents as Teachers
- Lee County First Steps: $613,329 to expand Early Steps to School Success
- Lexington County First Steps: $529,404 to expand Parents as Teachers
- Newberry County First Steps: $88,310 to expand Triple P (Positive Parenting Program)
- Saluda County First Steps: $20,155 to expand Nurturing Parenting
- Sumter County First Steps: $164,450 to expand Parents as Teachers
According to Mjartan, neither Orangeburg nor Calhoun County got the parenting program expansion grant, because neither of them applied. Richland County also did not receive any funds.