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COLUMBIA – South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness, S.C.’s only statewide, dedicated early childhood agency, is celebrating 20 years of service to children and families on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

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The celebration begins on the State House steps at 5 p.m. with remarks by former Gov. Jim Hodges and a group photo of more than 300 supporters from across 46 counties. A reception for the group will follow at 6 p.m. at Optus Bank, 1241 Main St., Suite 100, Columbia.

Dignitaries attending will include Hodges and former Rep. James Smith, who worked to establish First Steps as a statewide public-private partnership charged with getting South Carolina’s children ready for success in school and life on June 28, 1999. Two decades later, First Steps continues to lead the charge to ensure South Carolina’s youngest citizens reach their highest potential.

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“It is such an honor to celebrate the work of so many dedicated community leaders, partners, staff and board members who have made SC First Steps the life-changing organization that it is today,” said SC First Steps Executive Director Georgia Mjartan. “It is amazing to realize that the lives of more than a million children and parents have been impacted by First Steps over the past 20 years.”

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Over the past 20 years, 726,817 children have been reached through First Steps, which is both a state agency and a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Services are offered through a network of 46 First Steps nonprofit affiliates, one in each county, which provide parenting support, increase access to high-quality child care and offer a variety of other evidence-based programs. Through First Steps 4K, 14,495 children have participated in free, high-quality, full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten in private, nonprofit and faith-based centers. First Steps is also the convener of the South Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council that works to ensure integration and collaboration across governmental agencies serving young children.

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