SC First Steps celebrates 25 years of preparing children for success in school and life - SC First Steps

SC First Steps celebrates 25 years of preparing children for success in school and life

June 28, 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of South Carolina First Steps. Since inception, First Steps has impacted over one million children during the most important stage in their development through a network of 46 local, county-level nonprofit affiliates and over 300 First Steps 4K providers statewide. Operating the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, the agency also coordinates the efforts of all the government agencies whose programs impact young children. 

Former Governor Jim Hodges established First Steps during his time in office as a public-private partnership, both a state agency and a nonprofit, to ensure children would start school ready for success. Earlier this week, he gave remarks at an anniversary celebration honoring the thousands of people who have contributed to the legacy and impact of the organization. Attendees included legislative champions, local and state First Steps board members, local and state executive directors past and present, First Steps 4K providers, and agency leaders from across the early childhood system.

Since 1999, First Steps local partnerships have served over one million infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and their parents in their homes, child care centers, pediatric clinics and countless other community spaces. Since 2006, 30,019 children have participated in First Steps 4K - free, high-quality, full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten in private, nonprofit, and faith-based centers. Since 2010, the Early Childhood Advisory Council has convened to ensure that South Carolina’s early childhood system is aligned, coordinated, and family centered. Since 2022, First Five SC has provided over 270,000 people an online portal to check their eligibility for dozens of public services and, with information they already entered, apply for multiple programs at once.

“South Carolina First Steps has been instrumental in providing our children a strong educational foundation,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “Through First Steps 4K and their dedicated work with faith-based providers, child care centers, and private schools, they ensure our children receive the best possible start. They have proven to be the right agency to lead the 4K program, creating a brighter future for our entire state.”

Established in state law on June 28, 1999, First Steps existed for 24 years with a looming sunset, a provision in statute indicating that the entity was temporary and would end on a set date.  A significant milestone in the history of First Steps came just this past year, when, on June 19, 2023, First Steps became a permanent agency with the unanimous support of every member of the General Assembly.

“It is such an honor to celebrate the work of so many dedicated community leaders, partners, staff and board members who have made SC First Steps the life-changing organization that it is today,” says First Steps’ Executive Director, Georgia Mjartan. “It is amazing to realize that the lives of more than a million children and parents have been impacted by First Steps over the past twenty-five years.”

Parents and communities rely on First Steps to ensure that their children have what they need to thrive: a nurturing and safe home, opportunities to learn and grow, quality care and education, and when necessary, early intervention and mental health services. First Steps is proven to get children ready for school. To see what First Steps programs are available where you live and what may fit your family’s goals, visit

To meet families who have been impacted by First Steps, visit

>> Find more on the 25-year timeline.


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