McPherson: Head Start provides hope, unity and a strong foundation

Darnell Byrd McPherson encourages the audience to continue their strong support of the Head Start program and all the opportunities it provides families and children in Darlington County.

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

For the past fifty years, the Darlington County Community Action Agency’s Head Start has been a helping hand for parents and children in Darlington County serving as a place to learn and grow in all aspects of life. On Oct. 31, members of the Darlington County community as well as local organizations and businesses, gathered to celebrate the triumphs of the past fifty years. The guest speaker for the event was Darnell Byrd McPherson, Darlington County First Steps Executive Director.
“I am a Head Start mother and grandmother,” McPherson said. “In 1973ish I moved from New Orleans, Louisiana and I had in tow three young children, one of whom had just turned three-years-old. Across the street from where we rented a home was the Davis Temple Head Start Center. That started my journey in Head Start.”

McPherson said that since that time, she has had the pleasure of serving as a parent assistant to the parent coordinator and then later the parent involvement coordinator. Having also had children served by the program, McPherson said she understands the power of Head Start.

“Over the fifty-years of its presence in Darlington County, Head Start has provided hope, inspiration, recognition, unity, value, opportunities, experiences, employment, training, education, friendships and a foundation for entrepreneurs, a foundation for leadership and a foundation for creating a new generation of lifelong learners,” McPherson said. “You see, Head Start is more than a program that serves three and five-year-olds who learn their colors and learn how to walk in a straight line and how to take turns. Head Start transforms communities.”

Head Start offers a safe place for all members of a family to learn and grown, McPherson said.

“ How does it transform communities,” she asked. “It engages the community in making the environments a better place for children and families. Head Start centers are designed to serve as a training ground for parents to learn skills and to find their calling. Head Start centers are designed to provide creative environments for teachers to learn the best and latest practices in early childhood education…Head Start provides opportunities for all who will become fully engaged.”

There are currently 300 children in 16 classrooms between the three centers in Darlington County; the program has served over 14,000 children in the past 50 years.

As part of the 50-year celebration, the Darlington County Community Action Agency asked people who had been impacted by the Head Start program to submit their name and photo and some information about what they have done in their life and career. During the program, these pictures and photos were displayed around the room. Senator Gerald Malloy was among the ‘Faces of Head Start’ as were students who had gone on to become doctors and successful professionals.

McPherson said that everyone must remember the stories of those they have served so that even in the lean times, when the program doesn’t receive a lot of funding or outside help, the staff remembers why they are doing what they are doing: to give students in Darlington County a head start in life.

For more information about the Head Start program, call 843-395-8036.

Sheriff Tony Chavis takes part in an affirmation exercise conducted by Darnell Byrd McPherson.

Author: Duane Childers

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