Countdown to Kindergarten reaches 100 local children

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By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County First Steps’ Countdown to Kindergarten program dramatically expanded its effectiveness this year by reaching more than three times the number of local children as last year.

Now in its 10th year, Countdown to Kindergarten is dedicated to helping at-risk children and their parents prepare for kindergarten through summer home visits by teachers.

The program reached 100 children in 2013, thanks to increased local participation in both funding and personnel. Last year the program reached 30 children.

“The number drastically improved through the number of grants we received,” program manager Kristy Hill said. “We also had some wonderful teachers and school participation.

“We heard so much feedback, and the most common thing we heard is that it improves (students’) involvement in the classroom and the relationship between the child and the teacher and the teacher and the family,” she said.

In addition to its regular funding from S.C. First Steps, Countdown to Kindergarten received more than $32,300 in grants this year from the Springs Close Foundation, Lancaster County United Way, Staples and the S.C. Education Improvement Act.

The grants made it possible for eight teachers from five county schools to reach out to rising 4K and kindergarten students and their families five times over the course of the summer.

Teachers from Brooklyn Springs Elementary, Clinton Elementary, Discovery, Buford Elementary and Indian Land Elementary  schools participated.

During the visits, teachers showed parents South Carolina kindergarten standards and then used the children’s lessons to instruct the parents on how to prepare their children to meet the state’s standards.

As part of the program, the children receive a backpack full of learning materials used in the lessons, as well as school supplies and books.

“The visits were designed for working with the parents and child on various lessons,” Bryson said in a release last week, “including ‘Getting to Know You,’ English language arts, math, science, social studies and writing; the last visit is a ‘field trip to kindergarten.’”

Field trips were Aug. 15 at Brooklyn Springs and Clinton elementary schools and Aug. 19 at Buford Elementary. The classroom visits, which included a small party, offered students a preview of what it’s like to go to “big school.”

Chiyoka Wade of Lancaster participated in the program with her son, Angelo. Wade said since Brooklyn Springs kindergarten teacher Monica Bowers’ visits over the summer, Angelo has been extremely excited about starting kindergarten.

“He has been full of questions about the upcoming school year,” Wade said. “I appreciate how Miss Bowers came out and got acquainted with (my son) and started on math, reading, science and social studies.

“It was a great experience,” she said.

Hill said, as always, Countdown to Kindergarten’s success reaching at-risk future students is due to community support that helps lay the groundwork for the future success of both the students and the community itself.

“We would not be here without community support,” Hill said. “It takes the whole community to get these children ready for school.

“It’s an investment in our community.”


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151