Two First Steps AmeriCorps members have been named McNair Members of the Year for 2021-2022. Eboni Bryant served as a parent educator with the HIPPY program at Orangeburg County First Steps, and Samantha Hernandez served as a family and community engagement coordinator with the Tri-County Play Collaborative, an initiative of the First Steps partnerships in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties.
The McNair Member of the Year Award annually recognizes two First Steps AmeriCorps members who have demonstrated outstanding service to young children, their families, and communities. The award is named for Sheila McNair, a First Steps AmeriCorps member who died in 2021. McNair served as a HIPPY parent educator with Richland County First Steps.
“This award honors Sheila’s legacy of service and support of her community,” says Valencia Johnson, AmeriCorps program coordinator at South Carolina First Steps. “It recognizes members who have demonstrated exemplary leadership, collaboration, and growth – all while inspiring others to do the same.”
First Steps AmeriCorps provides 38 part-time community service opportunities across the state. Volunteers can choose from two different service positions: parent education or family and community engagement. Activities range from providing one-on-one support for parents to hosting outreach events to informing communities about school readiness and local early childhood services.
In her two years of service, Eboni Bryant has completed more than 900 service hours as a parent educator in Eutawville, South Carolina. In addition to directly serving families, she has volunteered at food distribution drives, health fairs, and literacy events for preschool children.
Kathy Jenkins, executive director of Orangeburg County First Steps, nominated Eboni for the award.
“Eboni has gone above and beyond in her service,” says Jenkins. “All who come into contact with her know that she cares for the families she serves, gives back to the community, and is dedicated to improving education outcomes [for] young children.”
Samantha Hernandez served as a family and community engagement coordinator for the Tri-County Play Collaborative. She was nominated by Adrienne Troy-Frazier, executive director of Berkeley County First Steps, and Ashley Brailsford, program director of the Tri-County Play Collaborative.
“Samantha is a servant leader with inclusive ideas for rethinking how we can engage families and communities and ensuring that all children start school ready to reach their highest potential,” says Brailsford. “She is our boots on the ground, go-to person for leading events, coordinating activities with partners, and following-up on the needs of families.”
South Carolina First Steps is now recruiting a new class of AmeriCorps members for the 2022-2023 service year. AmeriCorps members receive two monthly stipends as well as the Segal Education Award at the end of their service year to cover student loan payments or tuition. Both award amounts are based on the number of hours completed during the 8 to 10 months of service.
To learn more about First Steps AmeriCorps and to complete an application, visit scfirststeps.org/americorps.