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USD Head Start Staff Recognized at State SDECE Conference

Photo of Holly Solem. Holly Solem was honored with the Susan Smith Award for outstanding commitment and support of Head Start in South Dakota.

SPEARFISH, S.D. – Once a year early childhood professionals from across the state of South Dakota come together to celebrate the success of programs and staff during the annual South Dakota Early Childhood Education Conference (SDECE). This year USD Head Start capped off 40 years of programming in the community, with nine staff recognized in several different areas by the South Dakota Head Start Association, during an annual banquet held at the conference on April 13 in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Holly Solem was honored with the Susan Smith Award for outstanding commitment and support of Head Start in South Dakota. This year Solem celebrates 30 years with USD Head Start. Carmen Stewart, Director, accepted the award on Solem’s behalf during the luncheon, sharing Solem’s gracious words. “My Head Start journey began thirty some years ago as a Head Start parent. I was so impacted by the program with all the good things it was doing for my child, and for myself as a parent, that I knew it was something I just had to be a part of.”

Working for the program inspired Solem to complete her nursing degree. She held several positions within the program before taking on her current role of Health Coordinator. “We all need to feel good about the work we do every day. There is no better feeling or greater gift than to know that you are making a difference in the lives of children, especially those children that need us the most.” Solem said.

Past award recipients from USD include the late Janet Buseman, a former Head Start Home Visitor and the late Dr. Gera Jacobs, USD Early Childhood Professor, who served as the USD Head Start Grantee Board Chair for 12 Years. “I am honored and humbled to be joining past recipients - both compassionate, caring souls that I admired and respected. Their work will live on through all the lives they touched.” Solem commented.

Katie Krieger, Education/Disabilities Coordinator, was presented with a scholarship from the SDHSA. Krieger is completing her Master’s degree in early childhood education at USD.

USD pride filled this year’s banquet. “USD Head Start staff work tirelessly often going out of their way to make sure families are connected to the resources they need. This is a special day for our staff.” Stewart commented.

Additionally, a total of nine USD Head Start staff were recognized for length of service to the Head Start community:
-Five years of service: Katie Krieger, Education/Disabilities Coordinator; Cristi McClelland, EHS Home Visitor; Carrie Roberts, EHS Home Visitor; Teri Schneider, HS Education Aide
-Becky Anglin, Health Assistant, 10 years
-Janel Even, EHS Home Visitor, 15 years
-Heidi Olson, HS Center Teacher, 25 years
-Rose Weiss, Family Service Specialist, 25 years
-Holly Solem, Health Coordinator, 30 years

USD Head Start provides no-cost preschool and early childhood in-home education programming for families, including expecting mothers and children birth to age five. USD Head Start operates classrooms in Harrisburg, Tea, Dakota Valley (North Sioux City), Beresford, Elk Point, Canton, and Vermillion. In home services are also offered in all counties served.

Families participating in Head Start receive comprehensive services including, education, family support, nutrition, health, dental, and mental health. The University of South Dakota has sponsored the Head Start grant funded program for 41 years, serving Clay, Lincoln, Union and Turner counties in Southeast South Dakota.


USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, kinesiology and sport management, and teacher residency and education.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News