Melissa Strompolis, Ph.D.

Chief Strategy and Implementation Officer

In overseeing strategy and implementation, Melissa builds systems and infrastructures for population health programming, community coalitions, prevention trainings, and prevention-oriented research and evaluation. She works with her team to lead and support the Child Well-Being Coalition, Empower Action coalitions, KIDS COUNT South Carolina, Parent Matters advisory councils, Race Equity and Inclusion Partnership, South Carolina Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Initiative, Strengthening Families Program, and Triple P South Carolina. Additionally, she is an ACE master trainer, has numerous publications and presentations on ACEs, and sits on many advisory boards, committees, and councils.

Melissa received her Ph.D. in community psychology from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and holds a master’s degree from the University of West Florida. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Institute for Families in Society in the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina and the Yvonne and Schuyler Child Development Center in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina.

Melissa volunteers as a guardian ad litem for Richland County CASA, an organization that advocates for any child referred by family court in this county. She is also a member of the Society of Community Research and Action (SCRA), Division 27 of the American Psychological Association, a membership organization for community psychologists.

View her research on Google Scholar

Melissa Strompolis, Ph.D.

Chief Strategy and Implementation Officer

803-744-4048

mstrompolis@scchildren.org

Aditi Srivastav Bussells, Ph.D., MPH

Director of Research

I tell stories through data and research to advocate for policies that promote equity, opportunity and resilience for all of South Carolina’s kids.

To ensure that all communities in South Carolina are healthy and thriving, Aditi leads mixed methods research efforts on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), race equity, community mobilization, as well as examining policies, programs and practices that improve family and community resilience. Most recently, she served as the primary author of the organization’s signature prevention framework, the Empower Action Model, an evidence-based tool for building resilience.

In her role, Aditi also oversees the South Carolina Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Initiative and KIDS COUNT South Carolina, in which she directs all data dissemination and translates research for action within the organization and for partners. To support the high-quality programs and initiatives at Children’s Trust, she helps build capacity of communities to make data-driven decisions that are equitable, sustainable, and promote population health through content expertise, strategic communications, and training. Aditi is an ACE master trainer and represents the agency on several committees and initiatives.

Aditi received her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health as a Doris Duke Foundation Fellow. She holds a master’s degree in public health from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in American government from the University of Virginia.

Her research interests include health communications, health disparities and racial inequities, child health policy, and risk behavior prevention. She currently is serving as a Mayor appointed member of the city of Columbia’s Complete Count Committee for the 2020 U.S. Census. She was also selected by the Society for Public Health Education’s board of trustees to serve as an editorial board member for Health Promotion Practice, a premier public health peer-reviewed journal.

View her research on Google Scholar

Aditi Srivastav Bussells, Ph.D., MPH

Director of Research

803-744-4062

asrivastav@scchildren.org

Montana Cain, Ph.D.

Director of Evaluation

Investing in and advocating for children, especially the marginalized and most vulnerable, is a necessity. As an evaluator, I work with stakeholders not only to critically examine the impact on the outcomes and experiences of children and their families, but also to ensure that initiatives are effective for and relevant to the communities they serve.

To ensure that communities receive the high-quality programs that they deserve, Montana implements, coordinates, and monitors evaluation activities for the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), trainings, parent partnerships, and coalitions. She also partners with staff on quality improvement initiatives and manages the development of our web-based evaluation system.

She holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in educational psychology, measurement and evaluation. Coupled with eight years of evaluation experience, she has 10 years of teaching experience, including seven as a K-12 Spanish teacher. Montana most recently served as a research associate with the Research, Evaluation and Measurement Center at the University of South Carolina, where she led the evaluation of programs, conducted research studies, supported assessment projects, and managed graduate students.

Montana pairs her interest in education and evaluation with her commitment to equity. With the goal of bridging the gap between equity-centered practices and measurement, she developed the Multicultural Teacher Capacity Scale. Along with her colleagues, she developed the Globally Competent Teaching Continuum, which is used in schools throughout North Carolina. Her work appears in “The Social and Cultural Foundations of Education: A 21st Century Reader,” the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Education Policy Analysis Archives, and Journal of Social Work Education among other peer-reviewed journals and books. She recently authored the chapters on equity and assessment in the book, “Becoming a Globally Competent Teacher.”

She was also selected to participate in Francis Marion University’s Nonprofit Leadership Institute. She is an active member of the American Evaluation Association serving on the Nonprofits and Foundation Topic Interest Group and the Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity-Building Topical Interest Group.

Montana Cain, Ph.D.

Director of Evaluation

803-744-4033

mcain@scchildren.org

Lela Johnson

Community Coalitions Assistant

Lela provides administrative support for the Child Well-Being Coalition and Empower Action community coalitions by recording and distributing minutes, coordinating meetings, and assisting with data collection on the research and evaluation team.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management and a minor in Spanish, Lela previously worked in student housing as a housing consultant with an area apartment complex.

Lela Johnson

Community Coalitions Assistant

803-744-4049

ljohnson@scchildren.org

Alyssa Koziarski

Research and Evaluation Assistant

Alyssa fulfills the administrative, research and evaluation needs of the research and evaluation department. In addition, she supports research projects such as the South Carolina Adverse Childhood Experiences Initiative, KIDS COUNT, and projects related to both social norms and understanding understanding emotional abuse and neglect.

A graduate of Wofford College with a bachelor’s degree in government, Alyssa brings experience working in public policy, child abuse and neglect prevention, and direct care. While earning her degree, she served as a member of Kappa Delta sorority, a national supporter of Prevent Child Abuse America.

Alyssa Koziarski

Research and Evaluation Assistant

803-744-4054

akoziarski@scchildren.org

Dana Powell, M.Ed.

Parent and Community Engagement Coordinator

I believe that when children thrive, there is hope for a better world.

In her role, Dana establishes parent advisory councils, empowers parent members to be advocates for all parents in their community by engaging in community coalitions, and ensures parents have the tools and resources they need to guarantee protective factors are in place both for them and their children.

Prior to joining Children’s Trust, she worked with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy for nearly 10 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Carson-Newman University and a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from the University of South Carolina. In addition, Dana is a certified speaker, trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team.

Dana Powell, M.Ed.

Parent and Community Engagement Coordinator

803-744-4058

dpowell@scchildren.org

Michael Shirley

Community Education Manager

I believe we have to make connections to better serve families and strengthen communities.

Michael fulfills training and workforce development needs with a focus on the statewide Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Initiative. He leads our train-the-trainer workshops and creates professional development and peer networking opportunities. He also is a facilitator for Empower Action coalitions and assists with the biennial Building Hope for Children Conference. A certified trainer in ACEs and the protective factors, Michael previously guided statewide awareness campaigns as communication manager.

His experience growing up as the only biological child in a foster family exposed him to the widespread issues of child abuse and neglect. It was this experience that led him to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, especially in support of child welfare. Before joining the organization, Michael served Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM) with roles in marketing communications, development and community relations. He’s a graduate of Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing.

Michael Shirley

Community Education Manager

803-744-4039

mshirley@scchildren.org