Cindy Riley takes over First Steps program | News | The Press and Standard

by | October 6, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: October 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm

On Sept. 28, Cindy Dickerson handed over the reins of First Steps to new director Cindy Riley.
Dickerson, who has run the early childhood program since October 2011, has decided to retire. “My husband and I just decided it’s time. I’ll be 60 next year and he’s 61, and we feel like the next 10 years are going to be the best 10 years we’ve got left of our life. We want to travel and do some stuff,” Dickerson said.
In her six years leading First Steps, Dickerson’s proudest achievement has been helping families. “Seeing parents and children together and knowing that we made a difference in their life and they’re going to be better parents because of it. And the kids are going to start school ready to learn. That’s our mission statement: getting children ready for school. Whenever I see a child that I know is ready, that makes me feel happy and good,” she said.
“It’s been some of the most rewarding years of my life here,” she said.
Cindy Riley is looking forward to her new position. She retired this year after 10 years as principal at Forest Hills Elementary and 34 years total teaching in the Colleton County School System. This job, she said, is going to be easier.
“Forest Hills is the largest elementary school in the school district. You’re dealing with over 100 staff members and, at times, 750 students. So that’s a lot — there’s a lot going on,” she said.
“This is kind of like coming full circle for me, because I started out as a kindergarten teacher all those years ago. So now I’m getting to come back and help the babies again, and their families,” she said.
At her first group meeting, Riley got to see what the First Steps staff does first-hand, and got an extra surprise because one of the moms was a former student of hers. “It was nice to see her and watch her interacting with her children. I feel like I’ve come full circle.”
And she’s not planning to change anything. The “Parents as Teachers” program has the two staff members, both retired educators, making home visits twice a month, working with families to help them get their pre-K children ready for that first school day. Then there’s child care training at local daycares and preschools, and the Countdown to Kindergarten during the summer where teachers work with the children who will be in their classes the coming year.
And there are books. First Steps gives away free children’s books to individuals, families, daycares, churches and anyone else who wants to hand them out to children.
“What they’ve been doing is working and it’s going well, so we’re going to continue with those things,” Riley said. “I’m coming into something and it’s been seamless because she’s (Dickerson) done such a good job here. As a person who retired and was just looking for something pleasurable to do, it’s been easy to step into. She’s done a wonderful job.”
For information on First Steps or any of its programs, call Riley at 843-542-9494 or stop by the office at 609 Colleton Loop.

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