The Power of Head Start: A Single Mom’s Journey to Success

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On this episode, we sit down with Paris Hill, a single mom of two whose story demonstrates the power of government programs like Head Start in giving families a stepping stone to prosperity. Paris is a 4.0 student, a cook, an entrepreneur, and serves on the Head Start Policy Council, all thanks to her hard work and determination but also to SHARE Headstart. This federal program provides comprehensive child development services to young children and their families. Listen to Paris’s remarkable journey and learn about the Head Start program and how it helps families achieve long-term success.

SHARE Headstart: 


Katy Smith: Today on Simple Civics: Greenville County, we’ll talk with Paris Hill, whose story demonstrates the power of programs like Headstart in giving families a stepping stone to prosperity. Paris is a single mom of daughters who are 10 and 4. She is a 4.0 student at Strayer University, a cook at a restaurant on North Pleasantburg Drive, an entrepreneur founder of a vegan lip gloss company, and she serves on the Headstart Policy Council. This is all due to Paris’s hard work and determination, but it wouldn’t be possible without SHARE headstart. Headstart is a time-tested program that provides comprehensive child development services to young children and their families to prepare them for success in public school and beyond.

It’s a federal program that focuses on two generations. Both the children and the parents and is operated here by SHARE, which has a highly trained staff that works with the children and their families to provide a strong foundation for school readiness and long-term success in school and later life. To learn more about the program, visit and click on Headstart. To learn more about Paris Hills remarkable journey. Keep listening. I’m so happy to be here today with Paris Hill, who’s joining us to talk about her amazing experience with Headstart. Hi, Paris. Hey, how you doing? I am great. Thanks so much for being here.

Paris Hill: problem.

Katy Smith: Can yeah, can we start with just you telling us about yourself?

Paris Hill: Okay. I moved to South Carolina about eight years ago. Been here pretty much with no family, just me and my two children. My youngest, which is four, attend the Headstart program. Um, my oldest is 10, she’s in fifth grade. I’m a single mom. I’m loving it, by the way, . Um, I go to work, I go to school. I don’t know I just do it all.

Katy Smith: You’re a busy person, but I can say from the days when my children were. It’s hard to be a mom when you don’t have family in town to help you out. So what were those days like before you were connected with Head Start?

Paris Hill: It was very frustrating. I found myself angry a lot, sad, you know, crying, trying to figure things out, like it was a struggle. It was a real life struggle and I just thought I was not gonna make it. But signing her up for that program and getting approved and getting her in, it was just a life saver.

Katy Smith: Yeah, I think it’s interesting that you didn’t go looking for headstart. You went looking, and you might not have even known what it was. You just went looking for childcare. So explain your experience in trying to find childcare.

Paris Hill: With childcare, it was a struggle. Like places were just too expensive or they just required too much, or it’s just like, you want this amount up front. Do you need this every week? And it’s like, whoa, hold on. Like you ain’t got no payment plans, you know? And when I signed up for the ABC voucher, I wasn’t working 40 hours, so I wasn’t approved.

She said, you can only get approved if you’re working the 40 hours a week. And I’m like, well ma’am, I can work the 40 hours. If you give me the childcare voucher, like then I can make it work. And me and this lady really went back and forth, I’ll probably say about 30 minutes,

Katy Smith: Oh my

Paris Hill: and she was really debating me and I was just like, this system is designed for people to fail.

It’s not to really help anybody. It’s for people to get on it, stay on it, because y’all make people feel like they need it and they not capable of doing things on their own and just using the program as a stepping stone and to move on. So that’s when I found out about the Headstart program and you know, I said some words.

I just went ahead, decided for Head Start it probably took like six months for them..

Katy Smith: To wait for the headstart slot. I can understand what you’re saying, that if you don’t have family in town who can watch your children while you get a job so that they, you can demonstrate you have the 40 hours, you’re stuck. You can’t leave your children at home, especially when they’re young by themselves for you to start that 40 hour a week job.

Paris Hill: Not at all.

Katy Smith: So when you were plugged into Headstart, tell me what that was like.

Paris Hill: Um, first day going to sign her up. You know, they have you fill out a whole bunch of paperwork, but one of the paperworks is goals.

Katy Smith: Goals for you or for her?

Paris Hill: Goals for you as a parent because they wanna see if we’re gonna help you with this program, what are you going to do to better yourself? So they put stuff in place. They kind of have you thinking, you know what you wanna be in life, where do you see yourself?

Short term goals, long term goals, and they help you put ’em into place. Get it started. How can we help you start this? Where are you struggling? Where you need help with? And I took it as a joke. At first I did.

Katy Smith: You probably weren’t expecting any of this to be about

Paris Hill: I wasn’t. I’m like, this is about her not me. And she was like, okay, you wanna go to school? Go to school.

And I’m like, okay, I’ll sign up. You know, time went pass. She kept, you know, hounding me like a mother. And I’m just like, lady, come on now. I’m just trying to, you know, and I surprised her. I actually was already signed up for school, a semester had went pass and I had a 4.0 gpa, straight A’s. And like, she was astonished.

She was like, are you serious? You’ve been doing it the whole time and you haven’t told me. And I was like, I wanted to surprise… I didn’t want you to think I’m just taking advantage of the program, like of these other parents and just not trying to participate and do stuff.

Katy Smith: That is great. I’m picturing you when you were feeling desperate and angry when you and your girls were home and you wanted help, and you wanted to go to work, but couldn’t to fast forward after a semester that you’ve been enrolled in college, you got a 4.0, your daughter’s doing great. How did your outlook change after that period of having been a part of Headstart?

Paris Hill: It went from down and depressed to you know, I got a new attitude, like I couldn’t be touched. Like I’m that person, like I’m that supermom, I’m that woman. Like even if it didn’t mean anything in other people eyes, in my eyes, I felt untouchable. I felt like I accomplished something major.

Katy Smith: That is great. And what, what change did you see in your daughter who was enrolled in Headstart?

Paris Hill: She’s learning a whole lot and when she went in, she was already learning Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but she was learning it, so I had to learn it in order to talk to her. But they kept that going. She had always had one Spanish teacher and another teacher, I think, I don’t know right now. One of ’em speaks Spanish now, but they always kept that going for her.

And just the routine, getting them in the daily routine, letting them learn like they’re implementing math now to them. And she loves it. Like she loves going to school.

Katy Smith: I can’t imagine how ready she will be when she starts kindergarten, having been in that environment versus being at home. Not that you wouldn’t have done all you could to prepare her, but, it’s hard for us at home to provide the structure and classroom like environment that kids get in a place like Headstart.

Paris Hill: It is, and I’m one of the people that have. Short patience. So when it comes to me trying to teach them, so I’m like, I don’t know what this is. I don’t know how to help you. Let’s Google, let’s FaceTime family member. Cause I graduated when I, when I was 16. I don’t know none of this stuff. So it was a struggle for me going back to college and having to do all them classes over again.

So I’m like, okay, we just gonna learn it together.

Katy Smith: Yeah. I’m here to tell you I have a senior in high school and it only gets worse. I promise you that Google is your friend. You have had incredible success continue since you have been pursuing your goals. Can you talk about some of the accolades you’ve received?

Paris Hill: Yes. The first one I opened my daughter’s a vegan lip gloss company called Taraji Island. Taraji is my oldest middle name, and island is my youngest name. I continued to get a 4.0 for the past two years I’ve been on the president’s list every semester. I had won a whole bunch of awards through Headstart program cause they offer scholarships. I had won National Headstart Association, um, just so much like going to trips they paid for, you know, just the experience I never experienced. And I’m just like all this off of just doing, you know, what you need to do as a parent. It’s like you getting rewarded for doing what you need to do, and I was like, I’m with this. I can do this.

Katy Smith: Let me brag specifically on you. So Paris won the Ron Herndon Head Start scholarship award, which is a national scholarship, and took her on her first airplane ride to receive it and give a speech at her acceptance. And that is an amazing accomplishment and it’s because of Headstart being able to help support you in your goal pursuit.

But it’s because of you and all the hard work and your sticktuitiveness so huge. Congratulations to you.

Paris Hill: Thank you.

Katy Smith: Now that you are a longer trajectory with college and your daughter’s gonna be winding down at Head Start soon and going on to kindergarten, what does your future look like to you now?

Paris Hill: I do hate this is her last year. I wish you could stay there. But her going on to kindergarten, I just wish her nothing but the best, which I know she’s gonna do good cuz you’re learning from the best. I see myself just endless opportunities like it just don’t stop here. Like I’m on their policy council, I still go to meetings.

I still go to Zoom meetings and everything else they need of me. And I pray they just keep doing, cause I do not wanna stop this at all. I want to help other parents like get more involved with it cause it’s, it’s an excellent program if you take advantage of it. They don’t judge you, they’re not putting you down.

They want to help you succeed. So then you’re able to be the parent you need to be for your child and make sure you know everything just go right. And it’s like you never had a program that really does that. Especially when you have a background. It’s not too many places that accept. So they accepted you with open doors.

Me specifically, I can’t speak for everybody else but accepting me and right then and there, it’s just like all these women and the men of the program, I look at ’em as family members cuz they go talk to you and stay on you like a family member. They go annoy you. They go call a text and I’ll be like, yeah.

They go hold you accountable for what you do. And they wanna see you succeed and be something.

Katy Smith: So Paris, you just referred to your background. Do you mind elaborating a little bit about where you were in your, in your life before you moved to South Carolina and what you might have expected or not expected for yourself back then?

Paris Hill: Back then, I was, you know, I was still young running the streets. I had my oldest, but you know, you still wanna be a kid. I really didn’t have a childhood like that. So anytime that I got to, you know, go out, hang with friends or run the streets, I was doing it. But, when my mom had moved away, it got rough and you know, she moved to a new city struggling, so she really couldn’t help me either.

And you know, with family being there, there’s still nobody to really babysit your kids without wanting something in return. So me as a parent, I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to make sure me and my children survive. I just went about it the wrong way.

Katy Smith: You used the phrase stepping stone earlier, and it seems like that’s a great example of what Headstart has been in your life. That it has been this like a literal step to let you move yourself to a different future, your daughters to a different future. And, and it allows all of us as your fellow community members to have you participate in, in Greenville in a way that you might not have without this fabulous investment of head start.

Paris Hill: True. That’s true. That is very true. And I’m, I don’t know, I’m just glad that I did make that step because if you would’ve asked me seven eight years ago where I see myself, I would’ve told you, jail, dead, or run the streets. Like honestly. So I’m glad that I was given that extra chance, you know, to be there for my daughters to actually, you know, grow as a person and be like, okay, we need to put all this shout stuff behind.

It’s time to be a parent. It’s rough. It’s not easy.. It’s rough. You gonna have a lot of sleepless nights, crying nights, but at the end of the day, you have to put your big girl panties on and stand up because they didn’t ask to be here. And to me, they help us become a better us. They help us grow in ways that we didn’t think we needed to grow.

Cause two years ago, my mouth was horrible.

Katy Smith: Uhhuh

Paris Hill: All of that and it wasn’t just for them, but more so for me. So people won’t say, oh, you looking at this girl with tattoos, she, this, you know, But then when I speak, they’ll be like, oh, you’re very smart.

And I’m like, yeah, I’m not dumb by a long shot. I might play dumb, but I’m not dumb by a long shot. But it’s, it is very fascinating and I’m glad I went through the things I went through so then I can show my kids and tell them, Hey, it’s not this way, it’s this way. And I don’t care what we go through, mama gonna be there.

We gonna make it, you know, make sense. And we’ve been doing good ever since. So I’m forever grateful and I just pray for more prosperous stuff after this.

Katy Smith: That is great. Well, Paris, I’m so glad to have met you, and I’m so grateful for all that you do, of course, for your daughters and yourself, but really to be an advocate for other people that are involved with Headstart and for programs like this that can help make all of us part of a more vibrant community.

So thank you and all the best wishes to you and your girls.

Paris Hill: Thank you.

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at This is a production of the Greenville Podcast Company.

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