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$3.2 million awarded to STEPS

Southside Training, Employment and Placement Services Inc. (STEPS) is set to receive a federal grant totaling $3.2 million for its Head Start programs, according to an announcement Aug. 12.

The announcement from U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine cited that the funding came from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The total $17.4 million allocated by the HHS is cited to go toward five organizations throughout Virginia, one of which is STEPS.

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children,” Kaine and Warner said in the announcement. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.”

STEPS is set to receive $3,245,314.

STEPS operates Head Start, an education services program for children in eight counties, including Prince Edward, Cumberland, Buckingham, Amelia, Appomattox, Charlotte, Lunenburg and Nottoway. Early Head Start, which is for infants, toddlers and expectant mothers, services Prince Edward, Amelia, Lunenburg and Charlotte counties. A total of 296 people participate in Head Start and Early Head Start.

STEPS Vice President of Early Childhood Education Jessica Lehman said the grant is allocated annually and allows for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs to continue its services. A 1.77 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase was included for salaries.

Lehman said as a result of the grant, some changes were made to Early Head Start. She said prior to the grant, the expectant mother was counted among 296 participants. When the baby was born, the baby was counted as a separate participant, meaning that sometimes the mother and baby would have to wait for a spot to open up for the baby.

With the grant, Lehman said that the baby can now automatically take the mother’s slot, securing the baby’s position with Early Head Start.

Lehman said this change also allowed Early Head Start to add a second classroom with seven new infant spaces to the Lunenburg County location.

Lehman said Head Start and Early Head Start are gearing up for the new school year. All Early Head Start spaces have been filled. The Nottoway, Prince Edward and Lunenburg Head Start locations are full, but there are vacancies available elsewhere. Lehman said the most vacancies are located at Charlotte County and Amelia County.

The grant, Lehman said, will “allow us to continue the quality services that we’ve been implementing, and we just look forward to a great year.”

To learn more about Head Start and Early Head Start, call STEPS at (434) 315-5909.