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First Step Preschool beginnings

Black Forest Community Church and First Step Preschool share a long history and a strong connection. When the church was built in 1942, members established an open-door policy, and through various community events earned a friendly reputation.Kay Stricklan learned of that reputation after moving to Black Forest in 1982. As she began researching a location for a preschool she had planned to open, she approached Black Forest Community Church about renting space. At that time, their landmark log building included a basement extension along the south side. Stricklan applied for state licenses, and secured a rental agreement with the church. Stricklan chose the name ìFirst Stepî because, as a speech-language pathologist and mother of two, she knew the learning environment that young children encounter in their initial school experience has a lasting impact on their future educational path. The schoolís curriculum focused on playful exploration of the natural world, development of pre-academic language concepts and a variety of music and movement activities. Stricklan had the preschoolís logo designed to reflect its special location in the heart of Black Forest. First Step Preschool opened in January 1984, with six students. As its reputation†for excellence†spread, enrollment grew to more than 60.† In 1991, Stricklan decided to return to her former career and donate the preschool to Black Forest Community Church. The preschool immediately gained congregational support. Over the years, church members have volunteered with preschool projects, including playground improvements, general maintenance and fundraisers. When Morast Hall (the third building in the Black Forest Community Church complex) was constructed in 1996, the entire lower floor became preschool space. This August, First Step Preschool will begin its 32nd school year, continuing to offer developmentally appropriate learning opportunities for 3-to-5-year olds.New director at First StepKristi Priddy is the new director of First Step Preschool. She has a degree in child development from the University of Texas and has worked as a preschool director and teacher for the last 20 years. ìI feel privileged to join First Step Preschool and its legacy of providing a high quality preschool program,î Priddy said. ìAn engaging preschool environment is one of the first steps to developing a love of learning.î

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