Derek Lewis, Greenville County First Steps Executive Director

    Greenville First Steps recently completed a 5-year strategic planning process. The primary goal: to measurably improve school readiness opportunities for children throughout Greenville County. This two year planning process included stakeholder meetings, analysis of local and state data, and a thorough review of evidenced-based programming that has proven effectiveness influencing school readiness indicators.

    The board and staff conducted public meetings, held one on one conversations with community partners, principals, parents, childcare directors, pastors, and met with successful early childhood service providers across the country to help develop a plan for Greenville’s future.

    Anticipating limited funding, the board acknowledged that we need to be more intentional in selecting who we serve, and what we fund – focusing on communities that could best benefit from our investments and focusing on programming that guarantees the best bang for our buck.

    The Board reviewed elementary school data from across the district, looking at kindergarteners in each of our schools, to see where our rising 5K students are most likely to test “ready to succeed” on Kindergarten Readiness Assessments, and which schools have the largest population of 5K students “approaching readiness.”

    The board selected three zip codes with the highest numbers of students “approaching readiness” to focus our energies. For the 2021-2025 years, we will focus on families in the 29690, 29611, and 29669 zip codes.

    These three zip codes include 12 elementary schools and two SC First Steps 4k classrooms such as: Heritage, Hollis, Gateway, Westcliffe, Welcome, Alexander, Fork Shoals, Ellen Woodside, Legacy Charter School, and St Anthony of Padua Catholic school. These zip codes represent 4,300 children under the age of 5 and their families.

    Our Focus:

    Parenting Supports: Using investments in high quality parenting programs including Nurse Family Partnership, Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), Countdown to Kindergarten, and other supports to strengthen the work of churches, childcare centers, and community partners as they invest time and energies in strengthening parents as their child’s first and most important teachers.

    Early Literacy Supports: There is strong data supporting the importance of early access to high quality books. Through evidenced programs like Reach Out and Read, Raising a Reader, and other book distribution programs, we plan to distribute 30,000 books annually over the next 4 years.

    Greenville First Steps will continue to work closely with other community partners including our local churches, private funders, our Head Start, DSS, library partners, and community members. Together we will develop a comprehensive network of support to ensure no student enters school behind her or his peers.

    Four years from now, we expect to see gains in 5K school readiness indicators, and hope to demonstrate a successful model of overlapping interventions that can be further expanded to other zip codes across the county. We hope you will join us as we embark on this adventure. Visit to learn more about our plan and to find ways to get involved!