New members join South Carolina First Steps Leadership Team

South Carolina First Steps has two new members of its leadership team. Karen Oliver joined the agency in February as the Early Childhood Advisory Council’s (ECAC) Program Manager, and Derek Cromwell started June 2 as Chief Partnership Officer. This week, the SC General Assembly is slated to approve the first-ever allocation of state funds to support the work of the Early Childhood Advisory Council including permanently supporting the Program Manager position. The Chief Partnership Officer role became available when Debbie Robertson announced her retirement, effective July 1, after more than two decades of service. Robertson’s commitment to children will be celebrated December 2, at the SC Summit on Early Childhood where she will receive the Champion for Children award.

Karen Oliver manages the ECAC’s grant-funded activities, provides information about the early childhood state system to policymakers and leaders and facilitates progress toward early childhood system goals. Oliver brings more than 20 years of experience working with human service organizations. She was most recently the Senior Director of Community Resources at the United Way of the Midlands, where she directed community collaborations, volunteer engagement, grant making and evaluation. Oliver’s volunteer roles include six years as a Commissioner on the SC Commission on National and Community Service and participation on the 2020 Columbia Counts Census Committee. Oliver has a Master of Social Work from University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

Derek Cromwell serves as the Chief Partnership Officer overseeing funding and support for the state’s 46 First Steps local partnerships, one per county, with a total budget of approximately $17 million. Cromwell comes to SC First Steps from the AARP Foundation in Little Rock, AR, where he was Project Director. Derek has a combined 24 years of experience in a variety of public and nonprofit organizations in program leadership roles, including: the Corporation for National and Community Service (now known as AmeriCorps), Heifer International, The American Red Cross, the Area Agency on Aging, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Derek is a veteran of the United States Air Force, where he served 10 years as a first responder. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Phoenix, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.

Topics: Local Partnerships, ECAC

More Press Release Posts

SC First Steps announces Early Childhood Innovation Grants

Read More

South Carolina First Steps has awarded competitive grants totaling $282,731 to seven local First Steps nonprofits as part of its Early Childhood Innovation Grants program. The funding will expand programs and services that help prepare children for kindergarten.

$14.7 million in Federal Education Relief Awarded to First Steps for Early Childhood Health, Education, and Parenting

Read More

July 28, 2021, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced the South Carolina Department of Education will provide $14.7 million in ESSER III funding over the next three years to carry out early childhood initiatives in partnerships with South Carolina First Steps. The initiatives, which range from expanding pre-kindergarten education and home visiting programs to supporting infant and toddler health interventions and developmental screenings, will allow 25,000 children, parents, and caregivers to have access to resources and supports proven to improve education and health outcomes. Funding will expand the reach of Countdown to Kindergarten and Countdown to 4K, deepen the impact of afterschool and summer language and literacy programs for First Steps 4K students, expand evidence-based parenting programs for children birth through five and their families with a particular focus on families of infants and toddlers including Parents as Teachers and Early Steps, and establish or sustain Healthy Steps and PASOs early childhood health interventions based at primary care clinics and in the community. Read the press release for more details.

South Carolina First Steps awards $17,664,476 in grants to support children’s healthy development and school readiness

Read More

South Carolina First Steps has awarded its largest funding amount in more than 15 years - $17,664,476 in grants to its network of 46 local First Steps partnerships. A combination of state, federal and private dollars, the funds will directly impact more than 30,000 children and will expand parenting programs, increase the quality of child care, support positive transitions between early childhood and elementary school, and improve the health of South Carolina’s youngest citizens.