Ƶ awards over $760,000 in grants for early childhood innovation and program expansion - SC First Steps


Ƶ awards over $760,000 in grants for early childhood innovation and program expansion

Columbia, S.C. - Ƶ has awarded competitive grants totaling $763,270 to expand early childhood programs and services that promote healthy development and prepare children for success in school. The Ƶ Board of Trustees made this announcement during their annual meeting on Wednesday, December 6. 

READY Innovation Grants

READY Innovation Grants recognize and support groundbreaking approaches to achieving kindergarten readiness. They provide local First Steps partnerships with resources and support to develop new strategies that effectively address the specific needs of children and families within their communities.

This grant program is funded in part by Resources for Early Acceleration and Development in Youth (READY), a recurring public fund established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2022. The grants also include private funds from Enterprise Mobility’s multi-year ROAD Forward initiative.

The READY Innovation grant opportunity is part a new initiative called the Carolina Collaborative for Early Childhood Innovation, a unique partnership between Ƶ and the North Carolina Partnership for Children. Together, the two early childhood agencies developed a process for identifying, testing, and supporting early childhood innovation so that needed services are more accessible and effective in serving children and families in need.

The recipients of these grants are:

  • Lee County First Steps: Awarded $200,000 for integrating the Early Steps to School Success program with enhanced parenting, literacy, and school transition supports.
  • Pickens County First Steps: Granted $200,000 for adapting the Family Connects home visiting model in areas lacking a birthing hospital, supplemented by a coordinated service system.
  • York County First Steps: Received $196,200 for expanding the Countdown to Kindergarten program, increasing access to school transition support.

Recipients of READY grants will join a two-state learning community of local early childhood agencies and receive support for ongoing program development and evaluation.

4K Expansion Grants

First Steps 4K Expansion grants totaling $167,070 have been awarded to six child care providers and schools to add or expand First Steps 4K programs. This expansion is estimated to serve an additional 118 children and families across the state. The recipients of these grants are:

  • Corinth Community Development Corporation, Union County
  • Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, Aiken County
  • Early Start Child Development Center, Horry County
  • Miss Tammy’s Little Learning Center, Boiling Springs
  • MEGA Child Development Center, Lexington County
  • Footprints Learning Center of Fountain Inn, Greenville County

These grants require a minimum three-year participation in the First Steps 4K program, ensuring a long-term commitment to providing local families with access to free, full-day preschool programming.

About Ƶ

Ƶ is both a state agency and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and is the only statewide, dedicated early childhood agency focused on the healthy development and school readiness of children from birth through age five. Ƶ plays a crucial role in supporting young children across all 46 counties. In fiscal year 2023, the agency directly served over 54,000 young children, which represents 37% of the young children in need in the state.

Topics: First Steps 4K, Local Partnerships, Early Care and Education, Health, Home Visiting, School Transition, Literacy, Parenting

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