2019 National Smart Start Conference
Barbara DuBransky
Director of Supports Department
First 5 LA Family
Barbara Andrade DuBransky is the Director for the First 5 LA Family Supports Department. Barbara has been with First 5 LA for over 18 years and has overseen initiatives across the organization’s early learning, place-based, child welfare and health & behavioral health portfolios. Particularly, she has led the design and implementation of the organization’s universal preschool, home visiting and place-based investments. Barbara currently leads First 5 LA’s contribution to a countywide effort to build a universal system of home visiting in LA County, while working with partners across the state and in the state capitol to expand access to home visiting throughout California. Prior to joining First 5 LA, Barbara held positions in foster care, adult mental health, Healthy Start and the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Since joining the agency she has helped lead numerous multi-year strategic plans and previously served as Director of Program Development previous to her current role. Barbara received her BA in social work from Azusa Pacific University’s School of Education and Behavioral Studies, and her Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA’s School of Public Policy and Social Research. She is also adjunct faculty in the Azusa Pacific University’s School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences’ Graduate Social Work program. Barbara lives in Claremont, California with her husband Tom and sons Gabriel and Jesse.
Mandy Ableidinger
Policy and Practice Leader
North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation
Mandy serves as Policy and Practice Leader for the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. She leads the statewide Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative and curates an online Birth‐to‐Eight Policy Center to serve as a reliable source of information on birth‐to‐eight policies. She also writes and blogs on state and federal policy issues impacting young children and their families. Mandy has more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors, focused on children’s issues. She holds a B.A. from Duke University and a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Princeton University. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and three children.
Heather Adams
Executive Director
Rockingham County Partnership for Children
Heather Adams has served as the Executive Director of the Rockingham County Partnership for Children, a local Smart Start agency working to ensure that young children receive high quality early childhood experiences, for the last 13 years. Prior to her role as Executive Director she served as the agency’s Program Coordinator/Evaluator. She is passionate about her work and the impact the agency has on the community it serves. Prior to her current position, Heather spent several years teaching in a Montessori classroom and had the opportunity to work with the Greensboro Children’s Museum in its design/development phase. Heather deeply values the opportunities she has had to work with a variety of racial justice initiatives including the Racial Equity Learning Community in Rockingham County, the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Future Leaders Program through the American Friends Service Committee. She is also actively involved with the Blue Ridge Institute, a leadership organization for social change agents. Heather holds a BA in Sociology from Guilford College and had the opportunity to spend a semester in Ghana as a student. This experience significantly shaped her worldview and her commitment to serving her community. When she isn’t working, Heather is an avid runner who enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family.
Abby Alexanian
Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives
Root Cause
Abby Alexanian is the Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Root Cause and brings more than seven years of experience as a practitioner and researcher in the nonprofit and public sectors. Her previous work has focused on providing crisis intervention services, reducing and preventing adversities in early childhood, violence prevention, and creating equitable, collaborative systems of support for children and families experiencing trauma, poverty, and housing instability. Abby received a Master of Public Policy and an MBA in nonprofit management from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where she specialized in issues affecting children, youth, and families.
Jeanne Allen
Jeanne Allen Consulting
Jeanne Allen is a consultant who is a BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer with expert knowledge of effective governance principles. She works at the intersection of Strategy, Innovation, and Leadership in the nonprofit sector. Jeanne is an Instructor in the Duke University Nonprofit Management Certificate Program (NC) where she teaches Board Development and Governance, and Strategic Planning to nonprofit professionals. Her consulting practice focuses on leadership development, board retreats and strategic planning for nonprofits.
Daphne Alsiyao
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Rockingham County Partnership for Children
Daphne Alsiyao serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives with the Rockingham County Partnership for Children where she explores the impact of inequities that exist in early childhood in an effort to better understand and prioritize strategies that support moving children and families out of poverty. Prior to working with the Rockingham County Partnership, Daphne obtained her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Masters in Social Work from North Carolina Central University. Daphne has over 10 years of experience working with children and families who live at the intersection of race and poverty, from working with survivors of trafficking in Southeast Asia to advocating for young families in Rockingham County. During her time in Southeast Asia, she supported the work of local organizations in the Philippines and Cambodia by engaging the community through direct service opportunities, conducting trainings for local staff, and leading research initiatives. After her work in Southeast Asia, Daphne returned to North Carolina to continue understanding the impact of race and poverty through exploring the early childhood sector as a mechanism for anti-poverty and prevention work. Outside of work, Daphne stays deeply connected to the world of early childhood by chasing after her three year old and stealing sweet snuggles from her newborn.
Forrest Alton
1000 Feathers
Forrest currently serves as the president of 1000 Feathers. After spending more than 15 years in the adolescent health and teen pregnancy prevention fields, including 10 years as the CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Forrest stepped down in 2016 to focus on the launch and build-out of the 1000 Feathers firm. His experience increasing the scope and size of a statewide adolescent health organization, working across disciplines and sectors, and serving in multiple leadership positions combine to provide great insight to those in other states across the country interested in getting to results. With nearly two decades of combined experience in the nonprofit sector, Forrest is a respected voice and frequently requested speaker and advisor both in South Carolina and nationally on issues related to young people, education, reproductive health, and nonprofit leadership and management. Forrest has previously been recognized by The State newspaper (Columbia, SC) as one of South Carolina’s “20-under-40 emerging leaders” and by “The Free Times” (Columbia, SC) as one of the “50 Most Influential People in Columbia.” He is a Riley Institute Leadership Fellow, and a member of the Liberty Fellowship, a program of the prestigious Aspen Global Leadership Institute.
Rebecca Armstrong
Assistant Vice President of Program and Affiliate Stewardship
Raising A Reader
As Assistant Vice President of Program and Affiliate Stewardship, Rebecca is responsible for overseeing program growth as well as the program quality of Raising A Reader’s National Affiliate Network. Prior to joining Raising A Reader, Rebecca served as Director of Literacy Services for Reading Is Fundamental. In that role, she was responsible for literacy initiatives including early childhood services, parent education programs, conference presentations and projects related to a multicultural initiative. Rebecca began her career as a special education teacher for children in grades 2-7. Rebecca earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Towson University and completed her graduate studies in special education at Johns Hopkins University. Rebecca loves sharing books with children as they discover the magic of the world around them! Her favorite book sharing partners are her children.
Caroline Austin
Parent Ambassador
Catholic Charities of Hartford
Caroline Austin is a Parent Ambassador with Catholic Charities in Hartford, CT, a community health worker, a mother of three and a founding member of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network.
Harriette Bailey
Assistant Professor and Birth through Kindergarten Coordinator
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Dr. Harriette Bailey is an Assistant Professor and Birth through Kindergarten Coordinator at University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is Co-Principal Investigator on the Education, Quality Improvement, and Professional Development project, a Smart Start funded project. Dr. Bailey has extensive experiences in higher education and early intervention. She spent several years as an early interventionists with the state of North Carolina and as program director in an inclusive early care and education program. Dr. Bailey is passionate about preparing students to deliver effective and quality services for children & families. Her research interests includes supporting infants and toddlers, family engagement, cultural competency, and policy development around quality services for children and families.
Michelle Bailey
Partnership for Children of Cumberland County
Michelle Bailey a 20-year champion for children has a BS in psychology, MA in Professional Counseling and is the Early Education Coordinator for the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. Michelle provides technical assistance in the classroom through evidence based-evidence informed practices to help teachers increase the quality of care and foster an inclusive, conducive, and safe environment for learning. She believes that the children and families success are based on positive, and meaningful relationships beginning during the early years. Michelle is the wife of a DeAndre Bailey retired US Air-Force and mother of Jalen (24) and Jaden (14). She enjoys quality time with her family, gardening, skating, and reading.
Martin Balben
Program Director
Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children
Martin Balben, is Project Director at the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children where he oversees their effort to achieve state investments in early learning. He dedicated his career to educational causes and candidates from both parties that understand this core value. Previously, Martin lead the campaigns and elections work at Conservation Voters for Idaho and has filled various roles in his career including directing grass roots field efforts, campaign management, political strategy, and lobbyist. He takes pride in being the recipient of the 2015 Rotary Club’s Distinguished Educator award for his community organizing efforts with students. Beth Oppenheimer has served as the Executive Director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) since 2010. She has spent many years advocating for the needs of our children and families and is committed to advancing opportunities for all Idaho families. As a working mother of two children, she understands the challenges facing working families and their abilities to support their children’s early care and learning. Previously, Beth served as the Associate Director for the Student Union Building at Boise State University. She has also worked at the University of Idaho, and has worked on education, policy, and development issues for the Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC. Beth is very involved in her community and serves on several boards and committees which include the Treasure Valley YMCA, United Way Vision Council and is the newest member to the Boise School District Board of Trustees. Beth and her husband, Jonathan reside in Boise and have two young daughters, Maddie and Annabelle.
Emily Ballance
Emily Ballance, MEd, LPC, CSP entertains, educates and inspires audiences with her humor, honesty and lively stories at conferences and events across the country. She frequently presents on stress management, generations, positive humor, customer service and communication to associations, healthcare and child care organizations, corporations, educational and financial groups. For a complete list of topics, please visit www.emilyballance.com. Emily has earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation, the highest earned designation awarded by the National Speakers Association for meeting high standards in platform skills, business management, education and association membership. Also a Licensed Professional Counselor, Emily believes that positive humor helps people reduce stress, improve their work environment, build stronger relationships and make the world a better place. She lives in Raleigh, NC and when she is not traveling or speaking, she volunteers her time with older adults and the Autism Society of North Carolina.
Cayci Banks
Director of Communications
1000 Feathers
With nearly 15 years of experience in nonprofit and higher education communications, Cayci brings a unique mindset to 1000 Feathers, but perhaps one of her greatest talents is telling a story. Over the years, she has expertly crafted messages for general audiences based on large amounts of data and sector speak. This was especially true during her time as the Director of Communications for the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) where she built, from the ground up, a communications department and branded messaging platform for the agency. Cayci has built relationships and communications strategies that positioned the SC Campaign as an expert in the field— among many publics, including the media and elected officials. Throughout her career, Cayci has developed a variety of materials from one-page fact sheets that condense multiple sets of data into succinct, public facing documents to lengthy publications like Newberry College’s alumni magazine and South Carolina’s Rural Health Action Plan. Cayci has developed a reputation for working seamlessly with organization’s research and program departments to translate large-scale evaluation projects into easily understandable materials for targeted publics.
Elizabeth Barker Alvarez
Chief Policy Advisor
First Things First
Liz Barker Alvarez is Chief Policy Advisor at First Things First. In this role, Liz is responsible for strategic planning and oversight of FTF’s Public Affairs Unit, including Government Affairs and Tribal Affairs. The unit works to build awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health and to engage policymakers and the public in this critical work. In addition, Liz advises the First Things First Board and Executive Team on communication/public affairs matters and serves as the primary media spokesperson for First Things First. Liz brings to First Things First more than 20 years’ experience in the government, education and non-profit sectors. She has held the primary leadership role in communications at the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), a state agency overseeing more than 50 human service programs; Children’s Action Alliance, a statewide child advocacy organization; and, the Isaac School District, an urban K-8 district in Phoenix. Liz earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arizona and is a Certified Public Manager.
Rachel Bartlett
Project Manager
Children’s Healthy Weight Research at UNC
Marsha Basloe
Child Care Services Association in North Carolina
Marsha Basloe currently serves as President of Child Care Services Association in North Carolina. Immediately prior and for many years, Ms. Balsoe served as Senior Advisor for the Office of Child Development at the US Department of Heasth and Human Services where she led national efforts to address the needs of young children experiencing homelessness and their families, creating a wide range of resources and establishing widespread systemicpartnerships that continue to strengthen national capacity to promote equitable participation of young chidlren and families in early care and education despite their mobility. She's suthored publications for HHS, HUD and DOE and supported staff from these multiple sectors to enhance services and supports andhelped develop and implement related federal policies.
Christine Bauer
Lead Fiscal & Training Specialist
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Joy Bivens
Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services
Joy Bivens serves as the director of Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, the largest agency under the guidance of the Board of Commissioners. Franklin County is the largest county in the state with more than 1.3 million residents. As director, she leads the agency under three guiding principles: Operational Excellence, Leadership and Development and Integrative Partnerships. The agency has a staff of more than 600 full-time workers who serve as the county’s first-line social safety net agency. In addition to determining eligibility for food assistance, Ohio Works First cash assistance, Medicaid and Publicly Funded Child Care, the Agency also provides millions in funding for family supportive services, including youth after-school programs, health-science academies, summer employment opportunities and workforce development services. Roughly one in four Franklin County residents receives assistance from FCDJFS. Director Bivens is leading Franklin County’s efforts strengthen central Ohio’s childcare system ahead of the 2020 Step Up To Quality deadline. She commissioned an in-depth analysis of current system landscape and multimedia awareness campaign in addition to offering free, specialized training and technical assistance to help Publicly Funded Child Care providers prepare their centers or homes to become and remain star rated. She is also leading the Franklin County Poverty Assessment and Strategic Plan, a community-wide, collective impact initiative to develop and implement long-term, sustained efforts to mitigate challenges and create opportunities for our families to thrive. Director Bivens is a dedicated public servant who devotes time every week to volunteering and opening her home to transitional youth. She serves as vice chair of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Human Services and Education subcommittee, providing a voice for Franklin County’s most vulnerable residents on the national level. At the state level, she serves on the Executive Committee for the Ohio Jobs and Family Services Directors’ Association, and she also serves on numerous local boards and workgroups, including the Franklin County Criminal Justice Planning Board and the Children of Incarcerated Parents Action Group, where she serves as co-chair. In 2017, she was recognized by Dress for Success - Columbus as one of Ten Women Trailblazers. Director Bivens previously served as an elected member of the Whitehall City School Board, as Vice President of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and as chair of the Board of OhioMeansJobs Columbus-Franklin County. She is a graduate of Capital University. She lives in Whitehall with her husband, Whitehall City Attorney Michael Bivens, daughter, Mikayla, and son, Michael.
Scarlett Bouder
Vice President
Advocacy & Communication Solutions
As vice president of ACS, Scarlett directs strategic communication planning, government relations and advocacy efforts, and policy analysis and strategy development for ACS clients. ACS is one of the only female and minority owned consulting firms in Ohio and has gained a national reputation for not only its communication and strategy development expertise but also a deep understanding of policy and advocacy, especially for organizations within the early childhood and K-12 education sectors. In 2011, the northeast Ohio small business chamber of commerce, Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), named ACS a “Ten Under 10” award winner. This COSE award is given annually to 10 small businesses with 10 employees or fewer to honor their ability to innovate, grow and reach ambitious goals. In 2015, ACS received a Platinum Award in the Communication Plan category of the MarCom Awards and was named a Weatherhead 100 Upstart Winner as one of the fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio. Scarlett has nearly 20 years of experience in government relations and communication. After helping to start ACS in 2004, she left the company in 2007 to join the administration of Governor Ted Strickland, where she was appointed Director of Communication & Marketing and later Chief of Staff at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, at the time, the state’s largest agency with an $18 billion budget. Scarlett rejoined ACS in 2009. Scarlett also held government relations and communication positions for The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland, The Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Ohio Alzheimer Council, and the Ohio Democratic House caucus races, where she developed and led strategic communication efforts for more than 20 local and statewide candidate and issue campaigns. She developed and led communication and marketing strategy for two cabinet level agencies, responsible for Medicaid, workforce and child welfare programs. In addition to her professional commitments, Scarlett previously served on the boards of: Dress for Success Columbus (Vice President), Greater Cleveland Gay & Lesbian Center, Environment Ohio, Ohio Healthcare Workforce Advisory Council, and Cuyahoga County Health & Human Services Levy Steering Committee. Scarlett earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The College of Wooster. Scarlett, her husband, and two sons live in Columbus, Ohio.
Natasha Bowden
Shape Specialist
Buncombe Partnership for Children
Natasha Bowden, B.S. Nutrition/Dietetics, Shape Specialist, Breastfeeding Consultant and Train the Trainer for Technical Assistants. Natasha has worked in WIC ( Women, Infants, and Children) as a Nutritionist and Breastfeeding consultant for ten years and is now working for the Buncombe Partnership for Children Training Technical Assistants across the state to provide Breastfeeding Friendly Certifications and training to child care centers.
Dr. Zachary Brian
North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC)
Dr. Zachary Brian is Director of the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC) and a former Dental Director with experience running school-based dental programs. As a public health administrator and practicing dentist, Dr. Brian takes a practical, holistic approach to promoting prevention and treatment in school-age children. He is a passionate advocate for equity and access to oral health care, which he sees as a fundamental right of all North Carolinians
Shironda Brown
Training Coordinator
Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems
Shironda Brown is the Training Coordinator for the Farm to Early Care and Education Initiative at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Shironda earned a B.S. Degree in Child Development and Family Relations from East Carolina University and has worked in the Early Childhood field for over twenty years as a Classroom Teacher, Education Coordinator, & Center Director. Shironda enjoys working with Infants through Preschool aged children because they are eager and excited to learn. Teaching children at an early age how to grow gardens and take care of their bodies by eating healthy is a topic that Shironda is passionate about sharing with early educators and families.
La Donna Butler
Venecia Carr
North Carolina Department of Public Safety
Venecia Carr is the State Contracts Administrator for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Community Programs Section. She has worked extensively in community initiatives as a contracts administrator managing over $22 million in federal and state funding for youth programs during her 15-year tenure. She assists in the development of North Carolina’s juvenile justice service continuum by overseeing all facets of state contracts administration. Key responsibilities include direct oversight of the RFI process and RFP open, competitive bid and award processes in close coordination with the Department’s Purchasing and Logistics Office. She is responsible for contract renewals, amendments, and performance monitoring. In addition to securing evidence-based programming and services for adjudicated male and female target populations, she provides direct supervision to the State Contract Administrator team in their daily oversight of staff-secure residential Level II services and non-residential community-based services, as well as other legislatively mandated initiatives and federal projects. Mrs. Carr has served as President for the North Carolina Juvenile Services Association. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs. She is a member of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., a national business and professional organization. With over 22 years in the criminal justice field, Mrs. Carr has a broad understanding of the complexities regarding state government and nonprofit organizations. She earned a BA in Sociology and Criminal Justice from North Carolina State University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Strayer University. She resides in Raleigh with her husband Jamal and their daughter, Iman
Susan Catapano
Professor and Program Coordinator
Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington
Susan Catapano, Ed.D. is a Professor and Program Coordinator for the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Susan has been an active member of the early childhood field as the owner and director of two nationally accredited early learning centers, executive director of an early childhood nonprofit organization, president of the local NAEYC affiliate, and university faculty in early childhood education for over 25 years. She has been the principle investigator on over $4 million in federal, state, local, and private grants. Susan’s research focus is on mentoring culturally responsive new teachers to work with diverse learners and families. She has been the author or co-author on more than 30 publications.
Eileen Cedzo
Family Resource Center Counseling Manager/ Nurturing Parenting Program Supervisor
Partnership for Children of Cumberland County
Eileen has been working in the field of Child Mental Health for 37 years, 28 of these years in Cumberland County. She is currently the Family Resource Center Counseling Manager/ Nurturing Parenting Program Supervisor at the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. As the project manager for the SOAR Committee, Eileen has been an integral part of developing North Carolina’s first Community Child Abuse Prevention Plan. Eileen is a nationally certified trainer in the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework as well a certified facilitator of several evidence-based parenting education curriculums: Nurturing Parenting, Active Parenting: The First Five Years, and Star Parenting.
Michelle Chapin
Project Manager
Ready for School, Ready for Life
Michelle Chapin is a project manager with Ready for School, Ready for Life. Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) is a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County's youngest children and their families. In her role, Michelle is responsible for the Continuous Quality Improvement initiative - a capacity-building initiative to enhance quality through the use of data in programmatic decision making. She works closely with community partners, funders, and volunteers to maintain a full understanding of the current landscape of local and regional activities that intersect with the work of Ready Ready. Prior to joining Ready Ready, Michelle had instrumental roles in system building and led cross-sector collaboration. Michelle’s professional experience also includes working in the public sector and several years with a community foundation where she led its strategic grant making initiatives and supporting social enterprise efforts with entrepreneurial business leaders. She is passionate about the nonprofit sector and committed to serving the families and children of Guilford County.
Cindy Cisneros
Vice President of Education Programs
Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board
Cindy Cisneros is vice president of education programs at the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, a national, non-profit, non-partisan, public policy organization led by a network of CEO business leader Members. CED conducts research on major economic and social issues to actively inform and engage the business community and achieve policy reform in the nation’s interest. Early childhood education has been a priority issue at CED for more than 40 years. Currently, CED partners with the Alliance for Early Success and state partners across the country to cultivate business leader understanding, interest, and engagement in early care and education. Prior to joining CED, Ms. Cisneros served as director of member practice at the Public Education Network , where she led strategies for improving the capacity of member local education funds across the country to affect policy change, engage the public, and ensure that all children, especially underserved populations, graduate ready for college and career. She also served as a Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research and at the U.S. Department of Education, including as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. Ms. Cisneros also worked for Congressman Leon Panetta as a Senior Legislative Aide handling education issues, among others. She received her BA in political science and economics from the University of California, Berkeley and holds a MPA from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Devault Clevenger
Director of Clinical Operations
Pinnacle Family Services
DeVault Clevenger MA, LCSW is the Director of Clinical Operations for Pinnacle Family Services. DeVault has over 30 years in the mental health field. DeVault developed the Fostering Solutions treatment model for therapeutic foster children--a trauma informed and relationship based model. Devault is a member of the Moore County Resiliency Collaborative leadership team, coordinates the Treatment/Tertiary Prevention workgroup, and offers expert advising on mental health services and programs for children and families in Moore County.
Lisa Coffey
Verner fosters wholistic learning environments where young children and families thrive. We believe children from all socio-economic and ability levels, races, cultures, family types and backgrounds need and deserve high quality, comprehensive early care and education, and the most effective education of a young child requires the active partnership of family, community and school. We believe it is our purpose to nurture the development of the whole child and our obligation as leaders in the profession to model best practice for others in order to raise the quality of early care and education for children and families beyond the Verner walls.
Imani Coleman
Nilda Cosco
Research Associate Professor and Director of Programs
Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), College of Design, NC State University
Nilda Cosco, PhD, is Research Associate Professor and Director of Programs, Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), College of Design, NC State University. Dr. Cosco holds a degree in Educational Psychology, Universidad del Salvador, Argentina and a Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture, Edinburgh University, Scotland. Her research focuses on the impact of the physical environment on children’s health, well-being, and learning. In 2000, Cosco cofounded the Natural Learning Initiative with Professor Robin Moore. In 2007, she developed the early childhood Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) program with the NLI team. Already adopted by several U.S. states, the POD program is further expanding as ECHO (Early Childhood Health Outdoors) in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation. www.naturalearning.org
Kathleen E Crabbs
Co-Founder and Principal
CounterPart Consulting,LLC
Kathleen is a leadership and equity educator and coach, and a partner in organizational and cultural systems change. Over her more than 25 year career, she has collaborated with people and groups to clearly hear themselves and each other, and create strategies to partner and move through the world with clarity of purpose and commitment to justice. She partners with individuals and systems to bring an explicit equity lens to their work, hone communication and leadership skills, develop strategy and implementation plans, confront decision-making and disagreement, and hold themselves accountable to their plans and vision. Kathleen brings her deep listening, discernment and counseling skills to her work with individuals and the systems in which they live and work. She is a skilled partner in determining vision and direction. Kathleen is Co-Founder and Principal of CounterPart Consulting with Sterling E. Freeman and an Associate with OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc., both North Carolina-based national consulting practices. Through these entities, she and her colleagues partner with individuals and systems to integrate an explicit racial equity and adaptive change lens to their work and planning. Kathleen served as Lead Faculty and Coach with the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations for 17 years, where she co-designed and facilitated a two-year cohort leadership program and provided one-on-one coaching to adults on developing leadership that is increasingly authentic, mindful and responsible. Through this work, she has coached over 80 adults, whose diversity spans all lines of identity, discipline and sector, in individual engagements spanning from 3 months to two years. Prior to coming to North Carolina, Kathleen began her career with NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science where she worked for 8 years designing and delivering programs in collaboration with NTL members and staff. Kathleen holds a BA in English from Randolph-Macon College and a MA in English, with a concentration in teaching writing and literature, from George Mason University. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her children Eliza and Henry.
Alison Critchfield
Alison Critchfield has been involved in the ELLP project since the beginning. She previously taught four- year-olds and directed the model lab school on Midway University campus. During her thirty years on that campus she developed a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and chaired that program. She retired from her professor position earlier this year. Her advanced degrees are in the studies of children birth through middle school with an emphasis on literacy and learning theories. Favorite topic? Children’s Literature especially picture books. She lives in Lexington, KY.
Amy Cubbage
Vice President, Policy and Strategy
Amy began her education career as a teacher after graduating with a B.A. from Brown University. After completing a J.D. at Northeastern University School of Law and an M.S. in Leadership and Policy in Early Care and Education from Wheelock College, Amy worked as a National Head Start Fellow for the Administration for Children and Families, after which she consulted with early childhood education agencies on a range of topics, served as adjunct faculty teaching early childhood policy courses at both Wheelock College and Eastern Connecticut State University, and researched and wrote about ECE, including co-authoring a chapter on Head Start’s legislative history in The Head Start Debates. Throughout Amy’s career, she has been an active board member of affiliates of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She first worked with the CLASS as a MyTeachingPartner (MTP) Coach for the University of Virginia, as well as a data collector. Since joining Teachstone in 2010, Amy has served as Manager of Coaching, Director of Training and Professional Development, Senior Advisor of Public Policy, and now as Vice President, Policy and Strategy. Amy’s passionate about supporting teachers in their critically important roles of improving the lives of children and their families, and empowering all of us, both from within the field and from outside the field, to speak up about the need for high-quality education for all children.
Brooke Daniels
Quality Enhancement & Peer Mentor Coordinator
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Born and raised in the Greensboro, North Carolina, Brooke Daniels knew at a very young age that her purpose in life was to work on behalf of young children and their families. Growing up in a single parent home until the age of 8, Brooke learned the true meaning of hard work, self-motivation and resilience by observing her mother navigate through life. In elementary school, Brooke was granted the opportunity to volunteer in the preschool classroom and it was here that her love for young children was ignited. At the age of 16, she began assisting a close family friend with the start-up of a childcare program and later continued on as an employee. Over the course of the next 4 years, Brooke worked as an early childhood preschool teacher and an after-school/summer-camp counselor in both the non-profit and for-profit sector. In 2009, Brooke earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Education: Child Development and Family Studies as well as her Birth-Kindergarten Teaching License form North Carolina A&T State University. Shortly after receiving her degree, she began teaching 4 and 5 year old children through a state-funded pre-kindergarten program designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for children with high needs. During her time in the classroom, Brooke established close relationships with her children, families and colleagues and began to see the need for advocacy in early education on a much larger scale. After 5 years of working in the classroom setting, Brooke transitioned into a support role and currently works with early childhood professionals on increasing overall program quality through technical assistance and professional development. In December of 2017, Brooke received her Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Policy and Advocacy in Early Education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In her role, she strives to promote the implementation of equitable, high quality early learning experiences for all children and works to cultivate a culture of professionalism and leadership in the early childhood field. Grateful for the opportunity to support early childhood professionals, Brooke aims to create life-long relationships, one person at a time!
Wren Davisson
Shape NC Project Coordinator
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Wren Davisson, is the Shape NC Project Coordinator with the North Carolina Partnership for Children. Her primary role is providing coordination for Shape NC and supporting operations associated with the federal and private funding for the third phase of this project. Wren works closely with the Shape Phase III sub-grantees, partner programs, implementation team, evaluation team, and Shape NC funders. Before joining NCPC, Wren worked at Durham’s Partnership for Children for about four years overseeing their Transition to Kindergarten Initiative and working with the Smart Start funded programs. Prior to working with Durham’s Partnership for Children, Wren taught kindergarten for Warren County Public Schools and was a lead teacher in a five-star childcare center in Durham NC. Wren has Master’s Degrees in both Social Work and Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bonnie DiLeone
Ready to Learn Program Coordinator
Wake County Public Schools
Bonnie DiLeone has over 40 years of experience in the Early Childhood field. Bonnie started her career in Ohio, working as a teacher in a private foundation for young children with severe disabilities. She has been an itinerant teacher for preschool children with disabilities and an early intervention specialist for infants and young children with disabilities in Cleveland, Ohio, and was coordinator for statewide conferences across state offices that worked with young children and families. Upon moving to North Carolina in 1999, Bonnie taught in the Child Development Department at Meredith College and subsequently in the school of education at UNC/CH. She was the statewide early literacy coordinator for the Department of Public Instruction and Wake Co. Public Schools, offering statewide trainings and demonstration classrooms throughout North Carolina. In Wake County Public Schools, Bonnie has been an early literacy coach in preschool classrooms, early literacy trainer and teacher parent consultant, providing training and consultation services for teacher and families of children birth through kindergarten age. Currently, she is the Ready to Learn Program Coordinator in Wake County Public Schools with nine programs located in elementary schools.
Christina Dobson
Get Ready Guilford
Brenda Dunford
Guilford County NC Pre-K Director
Brenda Dunford-Mathis is the Guilford County NC Pre-K Director. She has a Masters in Special Education from UNC-Charlotte. She has served on the NC Infant Mental Health Board, NC-Interagency Coordinating Council and is the Past Vice-President of Family Support of Albemarle Alliance for Children
Lisa Eads
Program Coordinator for Career & College Promise, Public Service Technologies, and Early Childhood Education
NC Community College System Office
Dr. Lisa Eads currently works for the North Carolina Community College System Office as the Program Coordinator for Career & College Promise, Public Service Technologies, and Early Childhood Education. She has 22 years of experience in the field of higher education and early childhood education. In addition to working for the North Carolina Community College System Office, Dr. Eads also teaches online courses in the Human Development and Family Studies Department and the School of Education – Specialized Education Services Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Keya Elie
Triple P Data Coordinator
Cumberland County Department of Public Health in North Carolina
Keya Elie is a research scientist with 10 years of experience in the field of Child and Family Psychology. Her experience surrounds conducting empirical research on barriers that inhibit the success of low-income families and families of color. Over the course of her time in the field of Psychology, she has assisted in research conducted at New York University, RTI International in Research Triangle Park, and the National Institute of Mental Health in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Currently she serves as the Data Coordinator of an 18 county region for the Positve Parenting Program (Triple P) at the Cumberland County Department of Public Health. She obtained her formal education in Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University and her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Steven Erwin
National Early Childhood Specialist
Kaplan Early Learning Company
Steve Erwin has spent over 40 years working in a variety of capacities to support and advocate for young children and families. He has a BA degree in Child Development and post graduate work in Preschool Special Education. His work experience includes being Head Start and State Preschool administrator. Recently he worked at the Child Development Lab and adjunct faculty at CSU, Chico. He is currently the National Early Childhood Specialist for Kaplan Early Learning Company.
Lisa Finaldi
Community Engagement Leader
North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation
Lisa Finaldi is the Community Engagement Leader for the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), leading the First 2000 Days initiative, the NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Family Forward NC and the Local Financing initiative. She has over 30 years experience as a non-profit leader at the state, national and international levels. Prior to NCECF, as National Campaigns Director at Greenpeace US, Lisa directed numerous successful environmental and public health policy initiatives. She designed and led the first global investigation to test ingredients in children’s toys and products, resulting in new consumer protection policies in over 20 countries. Throughout her career, Lisa has brought together communities, business, government and organizations to shape cooperative efforts for change. She has unified disparate voices to define and achieve breakthrough solutions to complex issues. Lisa holds a BS in Journalism from West Virginia University and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University. She and her family live in Raleigh, is a past president of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood, a founder of NCWARN and a founding board member of Raleigh City Farm, a one-acre urban farm in downtown Raleigh.
Anne Franklin
Holy Trinity School
Anne Franklin, Ph.D., is currently serving as Principal at Holy Trinity School in Des Moines, Iowa. She previously taught multiple subject areas in middle school. Anne is passionate about building climate and culture where students, staff, and families are supported at all levels.
Melia Franklin
Family Engagement Consultant
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Melia Franklin is a family engagement consultant with the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), founder and former executive director of Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network in Oakland, CA, a mother of three and the facilitator of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network.
Sterling E Freeman
Co-Presenter and Principal
CounterPart Consulting
STERLING E. FREEMAN is a leadership coach, organizational and cultural change agent, facilitator, counselor and public speaker. All of his work is grounded in an equity lens and motivated by a desire to achieve justice. Sterling’s more than 25 years of experience have equipped him with the knowledge and skills in idea development, project management, personal development and goal clarification, and formal and extemporaneous speaking. Having been in Christian ministry since 1996, Sterling also brings a pastoral orientation to this work, and is inclined toward deep listening, holding empathy and meeting people where they are. Sterling has worked with leaders whose diversity span all lines of identity and across multiple sectors in the non-profit world. Speaking and lecture opportunities take him across the country and abroad. Sterling is a Co-Founder and Principal with CounterPart Consulting, LLC and Associate with OpenSource Leadership Strategies. Through both entities, he and his colleagues work with client-partners to help them apply an explicit racial equity lens to their work. Sterling is also the Project Director for the African American Heritage House at Chautauqua Institution in New York, an effort to promote peace and social justice in the world. He is a consultant with Auburn Seminary (New York, NY) where, among other projects, he collaborates with the Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Sterling holds a Master of Divinity from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a BA in Economics from Davidson College, certificates in business strategy and economics from the London School of Economics, and the Doctor of Ministry Degree in Global Leadership from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University.
Barbara Fyre
Vice President of Children's Initiatives
United Way Greater High Point
Barbara has been in her present position as Vice President of Children’s Initiatives since April 2002. Prior to the new position she served for 13 years as Executive Director of Child Care Directions, Inc., a not for profit, community-based child care resource and referral agency that served the North Carolina counties of Scotland and Robeson. Past involvement includes being an original member of the Scotland County Partnership for Children, Scotland County United Way Board, NC Child Care Resource and Referral Network Board, and Laurinburg City Council. She also has experience serving on joint committees for the NC Division of Child Development, NCCCR&R Network, and the NC Partnership for Children. In her position at UWGHP she has the responsibility to strategically plan, develop, implement, and manage United Way of Greater High Point Children’s Initiatives in the community. Provide leadership to position United Way as a leading advocate for children and families and as a convener for collaboration and partnership to improve the life of children so they will be vital and productive citizens. Currently she serves on the United Way North Carolina Public Policy Committee, Ready for School, Ready for Life Board, Greater High Point Schools Committee, and High Point Junior League Advisory Board. She is a Past President of Guilford County Partnership. Barbara is the proud mother of two guys married to wonderful women that have blessed her with 5 grands. She treasures time with her family, traveling and playing with family and friends, and her work!
Rachel Galanter
Executive Director
Exchange Family Center
Rachel Galanter (MPH, Maternal and Child Health from UNC-CH and Bachelors in Psychology from Columbia University), is Exchange Family Center’s Executive Director. A NC Parenting Education Network certified Parenting Educator, she has over 25 years of experience with children, youth, and families. She uses the Community Resilience Model, anger management and bio-feedback to help families and community members address the stress and emotional issues that can be barriers to making change. She employs proven models—Attachment Bio-Behavioral Catch Up, SafeCare, Language Is the Key, Triple P and Parent Child Interaction Therapy—to help families transform and to improve relationships between caregivers and children. A member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, she provides training and coaching to professionals on parent engagement, coaching, and cultural awareness to help other agencies engage clients who need support but are ambivalent about making change. In addition to her local efforts, she is a sought-after speaker for national conferences including: the National Birth to Three Institute, the National Head Start Association Parent Engagement Institute, the National Exchange Clubs Symposium, and to her peers at the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers Forum. Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina awarded her the Donna J Stone award in 2013 for going above and beyond to support families in their efforts to provide their children with the safe, stable, nurturing environments they need if they are going to be successful. In additional to her professional work on behalf of families, Rachel was a foster parent for a decade and added two daughters (and now four grandchildren) to her family from that time.
Rachelle Gardner
Health & Education Specialist
The Onslow County Partnership for Children
Barbara Gebhard
Assistant Director of Public Policy
Stacie Goffin
Stacie G. Goffin established the Goffin Stragegy Group in 2004 to expand early childhood education’s ability to offer effective programs and services for young children through leadership, capacity, and systems development. Previously, she directed major field-wide initiatives, such as Ohio's School Readiness Solutions Group and NAEYC's 5-year project to reinvent its nationally recognized early childhood program accreditation system. She led the founding of the West Virginia Network for Young Children, and Kansas City's Metropolitan Council on Early Learning. A former senior program officer at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, she began her career as a preschool and primary grade teacher of children with special needs. She also has taught extensively at the under graduate and graduate levels. A member of numerous organization and editorial boards, she has authored or edited more than 50 publications including both editions of Curriculum Models and Early Childhood Education: Appraising the Relationship and Whither Early Childhood Care and Education in the Next Century? in the centennial volume of the National Society for the Study of Education. Since coauthoring Ready or Not with Valora, Stacie has written Early Childhood Education for a New Era: Leading for Our Profession; and Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era. She currently is the series editor for Moving Beyond False Choices for Early Childhood Educators, a New America blog series.
Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt
Black Child Development Institute- Charlotte
Dr. Govan-Hunt is the proud mother of two incredible girls, 11-year-old McKenzie and 8year old Madison, and wife to her awesome husband, Quillie. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Claflin University in Child Development where she took on a second major in History. She attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio where she earned a Master's in Education in Curriculum & Instruction and a Specialty in Teaching. During her research assistantship at Bowling Green State University, she taught reading and writing at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. She served as a 5th-grade teacher in an alternative school in Toledo and as a part-time preschool teacher for four-year-old children at a Marazon preschool. Serving in so many different levels of education helped her really understand and witness the importance of a solid early childhood foundation as well as the importance of parental support and advocacy. After taking up residency here in the Queen City she served as a site coordinator for the Dell Curry Foundation, a high school challenge tutor for Communities in Schools, and an assistant director for Wesley Child Development Center. She then found a home as a child development specialist with one of the lead resource and referral agencies in this area. That is where she fostered her love for helping affect change in the early care and education community. Work done in the field encouraged her to earn my Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at Walden University in 2011. She takes pride in learning how systems work and how culture and cultural competency drives many of these systems. Her research and passion for under-represented children, youth, and communities have allowed her to present at various national conferences such as Smart Start, NAECY, and NAA. Dr. Hunt is a member of Uplift Christian Ministries where she manages community outreach efforts. She is president of the Mecklenburg Child Care Association, and the President the Black Child Development Institute- Charlotte. She also serves on the board for the Charlotte Bilingual Preschool. For the past 2 years she and served as a chairperson of the Ready for School committee with Read Charlotte and the Chair Person for the Kindergarten Ready team for the implementation phase of the project; an effort to double the percentage of children reading on grade level by the end of third grade by 2025.. She assisted in creating the framework and launch for the Data Collaborative focused on gathering literacy data for early care and education programs in Mecklenburg County. She played a critical part in designing the Innovative Classroom at Charlotte Bilingual preschool. Dr. Hunt is a participant in the feasibility study looking at the ways in which universal pre-k can become reality in Mecklenburg County. Hunt believes that she was created to serve children, families, and communities. She says, “I can truly say that my genuine belief if that I am exercising my purpose in life. My goal is the help bridge the gaps between home, school, and the community by connecting and growing support systems through parental education and advocacy”.
Jenny Graves
Jenny Graves is a licensed clinical social worker and home visitor for families with children 0-5 years through the Secure Path Home Visiting Program at Lucy Daniels Center. Jenny is a certified yoga instructor, and has been teaching and practicing yoga for almost a decade. She has presented twice previously with Jan Williams and has created a "tool kit" of stress reduction activities for home visitors.
Gabriel Guyton
Interim Director
Verner Center for Early Learning
As an early childhood specialist, Gabriel has spent two decades working with children and families. In addition to teaching and supervising graduate student teachers in Bank Street College of Education’s Infancy Program, she has numerous active research pursuits, including investigating the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in early childhood teachers and evaluating emotionally responsive practices (ERP) in early childhood programs. She also maintains a strong working relationship with the Bank Street Family Center, where she spent nearly a decade as a special education teacher in an inclusion classroom for children ages three and under. She earned her master’s degree in general and special education from Bank Street College and also holds a master’s degree in psychology of counseling
Patsy Hampton
Senior Associate
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Patsy Hampton, Senior Associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy serves as project director for DULCE, an innovative pediatric primary care intervention to promote healthy child development, proactively address social determinants of health, and prevent and mitigate toxic stress in young children and families. She also serves as director of EC-(LINC Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities), a network of early childhood system builders committed to supporting families and improve results for young children in communities across the country, with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems. Prior to joining CSSP, Patsy managed interagency, multi-disciplinary initiatives specific to early childhood mental health, home visiting and early childhood systems change such as Project LAUNCH and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant. Additionally, she served as director of Help Me Grow California, overseeing the implementation of Help Me Grow in counties across California.
Mary Herbenick
Executive Director
Ready for School, Ready for Life
Mary serves as Executive Director of Ready for School, Ready for Life, a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County's youngest children and their families.
Linda Hestenes
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Linda is a professor in Human Development and Family Studies at UNC-Greensboro. She is also a Co-Director for NCRLAP. Research interests include outdoor learning environments, infant development, and measure development.
Jeff Hild
Policy Director
Redstone Center
As Policy Director at the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, Jeff works with local, national, and global partners to develop, promote and advance policies to prevent and treat obesity and build healthy and resilient communities. Prior to joining the Redstone Center, Jeff served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as Chief of Staff for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) where he was responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency. His work there included finalizing regulations for Head Start, Child Care, Child Support and other key human services programs. He also led the agency’s work related to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the Zika virus, and coordinated ACF’s work on White House priorities, including human trafficking, Affordable Care Act enrollment and outreach, and the Unaccompanied Children’s program. Before joining HHS, Jeff worked in Congress for eight years. He was Legislative Director for Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, where he managed the legislative office, with a focus on improving Veterans Administration health care delivery and issues impacting the U.S./Mexico border. Prior to that, Jeff was Legislative Director & Counsel for California Congressman Pete Stark, the Chair/Ranking Member of the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee. He managed Stark’s legislative agenda, with a focus on poverty, child welfare, health, the environment, and Social Security. Prior to joining Mr. Stark’s staff, Jeff was a staff attorney at the Homeless Persons Representation Project in Baltimore, where he represented indigent clients in public benefits, housing, and civil rights matters. Jeff was born and raised in Baltimore. He is a member of the Maryland Bar and a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Sharon Hirsch
President and CEO
Prevent Child Abuse NC
Sharon Hirsch joined Prevent Child Abuse NC in the fall of 2015 with over 25 years’ experience in health and human services, nonprofit and government agency leadership. Her career has been built on strong relationships and connections with partner agencies, recognizing that moving the needle on better outcomes for children and families requires all of us. She represents PCANC on the State Community Child Protection Team Advisory Committee, the Essentials for Childhood Steering Committee, Think Babies Leadership Team, Pathways to Grade Level Reading and the Triple P State Leadership Team. She is currently in Class XXVI for Leadership North Carolina. She also serves as the Assistant Treasurer for the Child Care Services Association, where she advocates for alignment and resources to help child care professionals understand their roles creating a safe, stable, nurturing environment for our young children. Since joining PCANC, she has led an expansion of the agency’s intermediary supports for proven parenting and family strengthening programs, has spearheaded local engagement to educate community leaders and child-serving organizations to focus on preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, has grown public awareness of prevention through traditional and social media channels and has helped to raise more than $1 million in new investments in PCANC’s work to support and strengthen the capacity of prevention professionals across NC
Sarah Barclay Hoffman
Assistant Director
Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN)
Sarah Barclay Hoffman is the Assistant Director of the Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN), and a Program Manager with Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC. Ms. Hoffman provides strategic direction, policy visioning, and operational management to ECIN, which is a local collaborative of health and education providers, community-based organizations, researchers, and advocates promoting resilience in families and children from pregnancy through age 5. ECIN aims to improve child and family resiliency and decrease the effects of toxic stress in young children through innovative, sustainable, and community co-created solutions in health care, early learning, and child and family serving agencies. As a Program Manager at Children’s National, she oversees an early childhood and perinatal mental health portfolio, and serves as a partner on other hospital-based mental health initiatives, such as the DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care, a public-private partnership that improves the integration of mental health and pediatric primary care. In her role, she also works with citywide, cross-sector partners to transform child- and family-serving policies and systems. Ms. Hoffman has nearly 15 years of experience in policy and advocacy focused on children’s issues, including as an advisor on education policy and strategy to national philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and state education agencies at EducationCounsel LLC, and as a government relations specialist at the Children’s Defense Fund. She also serves on the Board of Directors and is the past Board Chair of McClendon Center, DC’s highest-rated community mental health agency, and is a ZERO TO THREE Fellow. Ms. Hoffman graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Colby College, and holds a Master of Public Policy from Duke University. She resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two young sons.
Evie Houtz
Program Specialist
Be Active Kids
Evie Houtz is the Program Specialist for Be Active Kid and works to coordinate and manage the NC Active Play Alliance initiatives; PlayDaze, PlayPods, and PlayMobile. Evie holds a Certificate in Public Health, a Master’s in Exercise Physiology, and a BS in Exercise Sports Science. She feels that her best education has been through the playful experiences she has had with her own children using loose parts and the outdoor environments.
Lisa King
Kentucky Reading Association.
Lisa is a long-time education and literacy specialist. Currently retired, she now empowers learners through mindfulness and yoga to increase learning opportunities and achievement. She is the current President-elect of the Kentucky Reading Association.
Courtney Latta-Sosebee
Shape NC Implementation Coach
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Courtney Latta Sosebee is a Shape NC Implementation Coach with the North Carolina Partnership for Children. Her primary role is to support and promote healthy eating, naturalized outdoor learning environments, and active play by providing coaching and technical assistance. Before joining NCPC and the Shape NC team, Courtney served as the Health/Nutrition Specialist for Orange County Head Start/ Early Head Start working with children and families. Her work has primarily focused on early childhood health and wellness initiatives with a focus on nutrition and physical activity. Prior to her work in Orange County, Courtney worked as the Training Development Specialist in Léogâne, Haiti for Kore Timoun (Children’s Nutrition Program) focusing on the Positive Deviance/Hearth model to address childhood malnutrition. Courtney has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill.
Maria Layne-Stevens
Chief Operating Officer
Guilford Child Development (GCD)
Maria Layne-Stevens, an alumnus and former Child of Head Start, began serving children and families as a direct service provider of early intervention/service coordination for Part C in West Virginia. During this time, Ms. Stevens also supported victims of domestic violence as the Director of her local Domestic Violence Task Force. Since then, Ms. Stevens has served the Head Start community for twenty five years. She served as the Head Start Director at Coastal Community Action in eastern North Carolina for seven years, Head Start Area Director for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo in San Diego, California for 2 years and the Head Start Director for Guilford Child Development (GCD) in Guilford County North Carolina for nearly five years. Recently, Maria was appointed to serve as GCD’s Chief Operating Officer. Maria holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences and a Master of Science Degree in Psychology, concentrating in industrial and organizational psychology. Maria Stevens began her longstanding career in Head Start in Lawrence County Ohio, where she served ten years. During this time, Ms. Stevens specialized in Research and Development, Training and Technical Assistance, Labor Relations and contract negotiations and as the Deputy Director of Head Start.
Jane D. Leach
FutureReady Columbus
Jane D. Leach is Executive Director of FutureReady Columbus, a public-private partnership dedicated to making certain each child in Franklin County enters school ready for success. With a focus on children aged birth to five and standing on well-established research that validates the impacts that result from school readiness, FutureReady Columbus seeks to positively change the trajectory of young lives and our community. Jane brings leadership to this focus, daily asking “What do the youngest residents of Franklin County need for school readiness, and how can we collaborate with community partners to ensure our children have access to those essential resources?” The relationships and experiences Jane has gathered as a former teacher, elementary school administrator, founder of a 5-Star Step up to Quality rated urban preschool, and a life-long central Ohio resident have helped her more fully understand the incredible importance of, and power in, school readiness, while also recognizing the keen challenges of preparing youngsters for their transition into kindergarten. Jane is deeply committed to helping the community come together to invest in young lives. Jane, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from The Ohio State University, has received numerous awards for her dedication to the education profession and for her leadership in the community.
Tameika Leslie
Project Manager
Mecklenburg County
Tameika Leslie has 14 years of experience in working with Mecklenburg County, NC in a broad range of policy and management roles. She is currently the Project Manager for two early childhood education grant initiatives for Mecklenburg County. As project manager, Tameika’s leadership and policy expertise have helped drive a birth to five initiative to expand access to early education throughout the county. Tameika’s sharp analytical skills combined with on-the-ground insight are an invaluable asset to support a successful strategy to strengthen access to early learning for Mecklenburg County’s young children. Also related to expanding access to early childhood education, Tameika led a Pay For Success feasibility study to potentially support a project with PFS financing to improve outcomes for children in public pre-k, a project funded through the U.S. Department of Education. Between 2010 and 2016, as Business Manager, Tameika had direct responsibility for management of the staff and support resources for all internal operating support functions within the Child Support Enforcement Department. In that capacity, her primary responsibilities involved managing and supervising the administrative support staff, the Call Center staff, the IT Business Analyst and the Q & T Specialist. For the preceding five years, as Enterprise Management Analyst, Tameika was responsible for special evaluation studies and ad hoc research on a variety of public policy issues, which included requests for data, presentations, analysis, and evaluations from the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Tameika’s combination of policy and practice expertise and sound understanding of how county government operates have helped lead a team to improve school readiness outcomes for children throughout Mecklenburg County.
Angela Lewis
Shape NC Implementation Coach
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Bart Logan
Senior Management Analyst
Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services
PLACEHOLDER-- Potentially not the author, Joy Bivens will be primary author and Jane Leach will be an coauthor.
Alex Loizias
Division Chief of Innovation and Delivery System Reform
Maryland Department of Health
Alex Loizias serves as the Division Chief of Innovation and Delivery System Reform within the Office of Innovation, Research and Development at the Maryland Department of Health. In addition to leading special initiatives and Medicaid reform efforts in Maryland, Ms. Loizias manages the implementation and evaluation of Maryland Medicaid’s §1115 Waiver Community Health Pilots, including a Home Visiting Services Pilot. With over 10 years of experience, she has extensive expertise working to transform publicly funded social service programs and health care systems to serve the complex needs of individuals and families. Ms. Loizias is especially interested in building creative solutions and cross-sector partnerships to better address social determinants of health throughout the lifespan. Ms. Loizias graduated from Tulane University with dual master’s degrees in public health and social work and earned her undergraduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While she currently lives in Baltimore, MD, Ms. Loizias looks forward to visiting her home state of North Carolina any chance she gets.
Keith Lyons
Marketing and Communications Director
Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (CCLD)
Keith Lyons is the current Marketing and Communications Director of the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (CCLD) in Lexington, KY. CCLD is housed and operated at the University of Kentucky, but is a collaboration among the state's eight public universities and the National Center for Families Learning. During his 15+ years at CCLD, Keith decided to build on his teaching degree (English & Math Special Education-Middle School) by pursuing and completing a Master's as a Reading Specialist. In this endeavor, he found his passion with the earliest of learners ad their families. This led to his current pursuit of a doctorate in early childhood education, with an emphasis in early literacy. His work in this area has resulted in extensive work with the Dolly Parton Foundation Imagination Library in Kentucky. He is an active member of the Kentucky Reading Association, serving as President 2015-2016. He is currently working with his new dog-hter Kya to become a 4-legged Reading Buddy.
Laura Martin
Early Childhood Development Specialist
Laura is the Early Childhood Development Specialist and has spent her entire career working in early childhood mental health, challenging behaviors, and developmentally appropriate practices in early education. For the last ten years, her work has focused intensively on training early childhood educators about the importance of mental health and its impacts on children, families, and coworkers. Her current research explores the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on early childhood educators and on learning environments. Laura works closely with teachers and caregivers in her community, providing connection to mental health services and support for creating healthy social-emotional experiences for young children.
Suzanne Martin
Director of Outreach and Engagement
North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative
Mary Mathew
Collaborative Action Manager
North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation
Mary Mathew serves as the Collaborative Action Manager for the NC Early Childhood Foundation. She supports the implementation and collective efforts of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading and Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Initiatives. Mary previously served as the Director of Program Planning and Partner Engagement for the East Durham Children’s Initiative; an innovative, place-based nonprofit providing a continuum of opportunities from birth through high school for low-resource children and families.
Jessie Maxwell
Business Development Officer for Small Business Lending
Jessie Maxwell is Self-Help’s Business Development Officer for Small Business Lending where she focuses on child care lending. Jessie has spent the last ten years moving between the worlds of education and business. She started her career as a third grade teacher in North Carolina Public Schools. She also served as a teacher advisor for the TIME for Kids classroom magazine. Prior to joining Self-Help, Jessie worked as a small business consultant for NCGrowth. At Self-Help, Jessie sources and vets child care loans, conducts child care business presentations for partner organizations, and has helped revise Self-Help's Child Care Business Basics course curriculum. Jessie has an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in Social and Education Policy from Duke University.
Ashley May
Parent Educator, Parents As Teachers Program and Adolescent Parenting Program
Rockingham County Partnership for Children
Ashley May has worked in the human service and early childhood field for over 18 years and currently (for the past 12 years) works as a Parent Educator for Rockingham County Partnership for Children in the Parents As Teachers Program and Adolescent Parenting Program. Ashley obtained her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, majoring in Human Science and Family Studies Child Development with additional studies in Child Development Birth – Kindergarten. Ashley is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Leadership Studies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Ashley’s entire career path is grounded in service and leadership for the family and child. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, Ashley entered the work world by becoming owner/director of One Step to Learning Child Care. One Step to Learning was elevated to a North Carolina Five-star program. Ashley managed and operated the responsibilities for daily childcare instruction, assessing and assigning interns and volunteers and worked proficiently with the State, county and local agencies to perform childcare services. Ashley also served as a Head Start teacher. All of this experience helped strengthen and increase Ashley’s professional skill set. Through Ashley work experience, she serves children and families from varied socioeconomic, ethnic and culturally diverse background. This background equips Ashley with assisting parents to build upon the family strengths and capabilities. These skills are a progression of growth so that parents can provide a support for their child’s developmental domains and maintain a positive approach to learning.
Brittney Mays
Assistant Director
Partners for Children & Families
Brittney Mays is Assistant Director at Partners for Children & Families, a Moore County-based nonprofit affiliated with the statewide North Carolina Partnership for Children organization. She began working for the Partnership for Children network in 2012 after completing her Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. She also holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. She currently chairs two collaborative systems change initiatives: the Moore County Resiliency Collaborative and Growing Moore Readers, an affiliate of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Mallory Mbalia
Mallory Mbalia has worked with UNC-TV/Public Media North Carolina for 8 years as a trainer and PBS Digital Innovator. She has served as a kindergarten teacher for 8 years at various elementary schools including Art, International Baccalaureate and Gifted and Talented magnet schools. In 2013, Mallory was a recipient of the Creative Freedom Award for teachers in NC. She has a passion for art integration and believes that all students have a gift or talent and that those gifts and talents can be used to make learning relevant, novel, and rigorous. She believes that a strong start in school lays the foundation for student success and ultimately leads to a strong educational career. Currently, Mallory serves as an Elementary School Assistant Principal at Underwood GT Elementary in Raleigh, NC and is a proud wife mother of three beautiful girls.
Kim McCombs-Thornton
Research and Evaluation Director
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Kimberly McCombs-Thornton, PhD has over 25 years of experience working with nonprofits and universities to evaluate programs for children and families. She specializes in mixed methods program evaluation, with a focus on incorporating comparison groups into observational research design. She is currently the Research and Evaluation Director for Smart Start, North Carolina’s nationally recognized early childhood initiative. Prior to that, she conducted an evaluation of the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Teams project, enabling the program to qualify as promising by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. Kim has evaluated other systems change efforts related to pediatric HIV/AIDS, neonatal case management, Success By 6, and homeless families among others. She has extensive experience working with diverse sites to develop logic models, data collection instruments, and quality management procedures.
Capri McDonald
Shape NC Implementation Coach
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Capri McDonald serves as an Implementation Coach for the Shape NC Team with North Carolina Partnership for Children. Her primary role is to support and promote healthy eating and active living through play, with a focus on infant and toddlers by providing coaching and technical assistance. Capri received her undergraduate in Public Health Studies and graduate degree in Health Education and Promotion from East Carolina University. Her work has been centered on early childhood health and childhood systems capacity building; this includes working as the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Coordinator for North Carolina Division of Public Health, Women’s and Children’s Health Section, Children and Youth Branch and as a Child Care Health Consultant. Prior to joining North Carolina Partnership for Children, Capri served in various positions including, Child and Family Health Program Specialist with East Coast Migrant Head Start Project where she was responsible for the provision of Migrant Head Start health services; as well as a Health Education Specialist at a local county Health Department in which her focuses included breast health and nutrition and physical activity self-assessment for child care (NAP SACC).
Maggie McGlynn
McGlynn Leadership
Maggie McGlynn is President of McGlynn Leadership and has served a wide variety of non-profit and public-sector groups, local communities, and organizations for the past twenty-six years. She has a mastery in design and facilitation of local, state, national and international meetings. Maggie assists leaders, management groups, staff and communities to build effective teams, form collaborative partnerships, plan multi-community efforts, and host interactive forums. Building on her success, Maggie now trains, facilitates and coaches leaders in their professional development, systems building and peer networking, and instructs and certifies facilitators.
Karen McKnight
Director of Head Start Collaboration Office (HSCO)
NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
Karen McKnight is the Director of the Head Start Collaboration Office (HSCO) in the Office of Early Learning (OEL) at the at the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The HSCO acts as a liaison between federally funded Head Start programs and other entities in the state that serve low income children and their families. North Carolina is home to 53 grantees responsible for serving 17,845 children in Head Start and 4,214 children in Early Head Start. Currently, much of her work focuses on building Head Start collaborations leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act; supporting transitions and continuity through alignment and coordination along the birth to grade three continuum; and developing a trauma informed early care and education system to support the early childhood workforce along with children and families. Karen started her career as a preschool special education teacher and, prior to her state role, served as Disability Services Manager for Migrant Head Start for 13 years.
Michelle McQueen
Literacy Coordinator for Birth to Age 5
Genesee Intermediate School District
Michelle McQueen is the Literacy Coordinator for Birth to Age 5 with the Genesee Intermediate School District. She serves as the coordinator for the district's work with the community-wide Flint Kids Read campaign. Ms. McQueen has extensive experience in public education and early childhood education.
Dr. Ebonyse Mead
Program Officer
The North Carolina Partnership for Children
For 17 years, Ebonyse has been a devoted advocate, providing coordinated and comprehensive early childhood and family support services to improve educational and health outcomes for children and families of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 2015, Ebonyse has worked at the state level promoting racial equity in early childhood by providing training on diversity, inclusion and equity with a particular focus on examining structural barriers to educational equity, implicit racial bias, and culturally responsive instruction to the early childhood workforce in North Carolina. Ebonyse is a Certified Family Life Educator and holds a Doctorate of Education in Early Childhood from Concordia University Chicago. She earned a Master’s of Arts in Human Service Counseling also from Concordia University and completed a second Master’s of Science in Family Studies from Texas Woman’s University. Her research interests include: racial inequities in early childhood, specifically suspensions and expulsions of children of color, implicit racial bias, sociocultural factors that shape family structures and processes, and culturally responsive family engagement. Ebonyse is deeply committed to creating safe and brave spaces to talk about institutional racism and promote diversity and equity in early childhood. She is passionate about creating equitable programs and practices for diverse families and their children.
Lisa Melara
Parent Leader
East Boston Social Center
Lisa Melara is a Parent Leader with the East Boston Social Center, a community leader, a mother of three and a founding member of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network.
Beth Messersmith
NC Senior Campaign Director
Beth Messersmith is the NC Senior Campaign Director for MomsRising.org, an online and on-the-ground multicultural organization of more than a million members and over a hundred aligned organizations working to increase family economic security, to end discrimination against women and mothers, and to build a nation where both businesses and families can thrive. In her role as campaign director, she leads the efforts of MomsRising’s more than 42,000 NC members, drawn from all 100 NC counties. Beth previously served as co-executive director of Democracy North Carolina and has worked as a freelance consultant on curriculum development, organizing strategy, and strategic planning for North Carolina nonprofits. She’s a co-chair of the NC Families Care Coalition and serves on the steering committees for several statewide organizations. She earned a MPA from Indiana University as a Truman Scholar and was recently honored to receive the Tom Vitaglione Award for Child Health Advocacy from the NC Pediatric Society and the Effie Steele Memorial Award from North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.Under her leadership, the NC MomsRising chapter has been honored with a Defenders of Justice Award from the NC Justice Center for their work around family economic security and the Latino Advocate Latino Diamante Award for making significant contributions to the Hispanic community of North Carolina. Beth and her husband Jamey live in Durham, NC, with their son and daughter.
Dr. Sharon Mims
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Dr. Sharon Mims has over 30 years’ experience as a child care administrator & researcher. Her focus areas include quality learning environments for young children & effective administrative practices. She is an AP Associate Professor in the Human Development & Family Studies Department at UNCG. sumims@uncg.edu Dr. Linda Hestenes has over 20 years’ experience in teaching & researching in the area of ECE quality (indoor & outdoor environments). She has given many presentations & regularly publishes articles for the ECE field. She is a professor in the Human Development & Family Studies Department at UNCG.
Robin Moore
Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Natural Learning Initiative
North Carolina State University
Robin Moore is Professor of Landscape Architecture and director of the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI, cofounded with Nilda Cosco, PhD, January 2000), College of Design, NC State University. He is an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and holds degrees in architecture (London) and city and regional planning (MIT). Since 2000, he has guided NLI in pioneering an interdisciplinary, environment & behavior approach to built-environment design and action research for children and families in underserved communities in North Carolina and beyond. Moore is a an international authority on the intergenerational design of urban play and learning environments with a focus on interaction with nature, and consultant to governmental and nonprofit organizations and leading design firms. He is a recognized author, former chair of the Environmental Design Research Association, and former president of the International Play Association.
Pat Morrow
Executive Director
Craven Smart Start
Pat Morrow is Executive Director of Craven Smart Start. She began her career as a family child care home provider, classroom teacher and child care center director. Her career with Craven Smart Start began as a contracted Quality Enhancement Coordinator, Child Care Resource and Referral Parent/ Provider Specialist, Child Care Resource and Referral Director. Pat is also an adjunct instructor in Early Childhood Education at Craven Community College and The University of Mount Olive. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from The University of Mount Olive (New Bern, NC) and Masters of Science in Education from Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Shakeda Muldrow
Salvation Army
Christine Murray
Director and Professor
UNC Greensboro Healthy Relationships Initiative
Jen Neitzel
Research Scientist
rank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Jen Neitzel, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Neitzel has a diverse background in both early childhood education and early childhood special education. Currently, Dr. Neitzel provides technical assistance through the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) that is focused primarily on implicit bias and its role in suspension and expulsions in early childhood settings. In addition to developing professional development materials and providing technical assistance, Dr. Neitzel also conducts research focused on identifying factors within learning environments that contribute to disparities in educational practices for Black children. A main area of emphasis for Dr. Neitzel is on promoting equity through a systems change framework that is designed to disrupt barriers in education and promote more positive outcomes for children of color. Dr. Neitzel’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and she presents regularly at local, state, and national conferences.
Cailin O'Connor
Kristin O'Connor
Section Chief for the Child Welfare Policy and Programs
North Carolina Division of Social Services
Kristin O’Connor has worked in the state public child welfare and juvenile justice sectors for 15 years and in nonprofit program management for 10 years. She currently serves as Section Chief for the Child Welfare Policy and Programs at the North Carolina Division of Social Services where she provides leadership to development, implementation, and interpretation of local, state, and federal laws, policies, and practices related the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families. Ms. O’Connor is directly responsible for the administration of community-based child maltreatment prevention services within and across the State’s child welfare continuum to include federal Community Based Child Abuse Prevention, Title IVB-2 and state Children’s Trust Fund. Ms. O’Connor holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Master of Education with a specialization in Prevention Science from Harvard University, Graduate School of Education. She is married to her husband Mike and together they have 3 children, Matthew, Erin, and Jack, ages 9, 6 and 4.
Beth Oppenheimer
Executive Director
Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children
Beth Oppenheimer has spent many years advocating for the needs of young children and is committed to advancing opportunities for all Idaho families. As a working mother of two children, she understands the challenges facing working families and their abilities to support their children’s care and learning. Beth has served as the Executive Director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) since 2010. In her role at Idaho AEYC, she works tirelessly to ensure that all children have access to healthy, safe and quality child care and early childhood programs. She has led many initiatives which include strengthening child care licensing at both the city and state level, Let’s Move Child Care and is currently the lead advocate for state investments for preschool in Idaho. Previously, Beth served as the Associate Director for the Student Union Building at Boise State University where she gained valuable experiences in business while at the same time provided on-the-job training opportunities for college students. As a member of the Department of Student Affairs, she enjoyed working with student employees and realized the challenges many Idaho college students face trying to balance work, family and schooling. She has also worked on education, policy, and development issues for the University of Idaho, the Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area (DC) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC. Beth is very involved in her community and serves on several boards and committees which include the Treasure Valley YMCA, Andrus Center for Public Policy and in 2016 was elected to serve on the Boise School District Board of Trustees. Beth Oppenheimer has spent many years advocating for the needs of young children and is committed to advancing opportunities for all Idaho families. As a working mother of two children, she understands the challenges facing working families and their abilities to support their children’s care and learning. Beth has served as the Executive Director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) since 2010. In her role at Idaho AEYC, she works tirelessly to ensure that all children have access to healthy, safe and quality child care and early childhood programs. She has led many initiatives which include strengthening child care licensing at both the city and state level, Let’s Move Child Care and is currently the lead advocate for state investments for preschool in Idaho. Previously, Beth served as the Associate Director for the Student Union Building at Boise State University where she gained valuable experiences in business while at the same time provided on-the-job training opportunities for college students. As a member of the Department of Student Affairs, she enjoyed working with student employees and realized the challenges many Idaho college students face trying to balance work, family and schooling. She has also worked on education, policy, and development issues for the University of Idaho, the Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area (DC) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC. Beth is very involved in her community and serves on several boards and committees which include the Treasure Valley YMCA, Andrus Center for Public Policy and in 2016 was elected to serve on the Boise School District Board of Trustees.
Cyndie Osborne
Since first beginning in the field of early childhood over 30 years ago, I have wanted to make a difference in the field based on a knowledge that higher education helps those that work with children on a daily basis. I have served in several roles in the field of early childhood from teacher in the classroom, program coordinator, director, licensing consultant, and now community college instructor for over 13 years. More recently, I was one of the six community college faculty who worked to create the statewide articulation agreement between the NC Community College system and the University of North Carolina system in 2017 that became law in 2018 through legislation and serve on the over site committee with three other colleagues in the community college system to collaborate with our sister university colleagues to ensure implementation of the articulation agreement between the NC community college system and the NC public university system.
Michael Parker
Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) and licensed fundraising consultant
Parker Benefit Auctions (PBA)
Michael Parker is a Benefit Auctioneer Specialist (BAS) and a licensed fundraising consultant. Michael is a second-generation auctioneer who began in the auction business in 1982. Michael put himself through college and law school running his own commercial auction business in the 1980s before serving 24 years as a homicide prosecutor and elected District Attorney. Michael retired from prosecution in 2014 and runs Parker Benefit Auctions (PBA), helping non-profits raise more. PBA is a full-service benefit auction business which offers event night services and consulting as well as registration and checkout training and staff specializing in Benefit Auction Management. PBA can handle all your benefit needs but is well known for their work with small non-profits, rural non-profits and first-time events. Learn more at www.ParkerBenefits.com.
Keith L Pentz
National Early Childhood Specialist
Kaplan Early Learning Company
Keith L. Pentz, National Early Childhood Specialist for Kaplan Early Learning Company, has been in the field of education for almost 39 years. Keith began his career by working in childcare with infants and toddlers. Later, he taught elementary students as well as Kindergarten. Keith spent the remainder of his classroom time teaching PreKindergarten and working specifically with low socio-economic and diverse families as well as inclusion students. Following his experiences in the classroom, Keith moved on to teach at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, and he also was an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Keith has served on numerous committees and program implementation groups as well as written articles for publication. Keith has helped author several district-level (Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida) curriculum guides including: social studies in the lower elementary grades along with math curriculum benchmarks and practices for preschool and Kindergarten children. A nationally recognized literacy- and resiliency-based conflict resolution and violence prevention curriculum entitled Peace by Piece was a major endeavor that Keith helped write and personally trained over a thousand teachers, administrators, and parents to use as a supplement in PreK-5 programs. Along with his classroom experience and writing, Keith has been involved in a variety of research and hands-on programs—specifically regarding play therapy and play as a strategy for the development of cognitive processes. Keith was a founding member—along with Becky Bailey (Loving Guidance/Conscious Discipline), Pam Frank (psychologist/play therapist), and other teachers, counselors, and early childhood specialists—of Project Play, a developmental, play therapy-based, and behavior intervention program that worked with young children who may have difficulties developmentally, cognitively, or socially and emotionally.
Karlene Fyffe Phillips
Durham County Library system
Karlene is in her twentieth year with the Durham County Library system working with youth and families in various roles. With ten years of previous experience working with the world renown Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she brings a unique health and caring component to her current work. This experience positions her to focus on the role of family in her efforts to help prepare children to succeed in school and life. She strongly believes that early literacy involves the entire family. Although not required for her job, Karlene possesses a Doctor of Ministry degree which further fuels her passion to help our children and families succeed.
Jasmin Piña Colón
Infant Toddler Teacher
Kidscope Early Learning Center
Jasmin Piña Colon was born in Rio Piedras Puerto Rico and moved to North Carolina in 2010. Ms. Pina currently works as an Infant Toddler Teacher at the Kidscope Early Learning Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She studied her CDA preparation classes at Durham Technical College in Graham, NC. She earned her CDA Credential in XXX, 2017. Earning her CDA credential inspired her to continue her college education and following this accomplishment, Ms. Piña enrolled in the early Childhood Associate program at Alamance Community College where she is currently completing her first year of studies. Ms. Piña firmly believes that earning her CDA credential opened the door for many professional opportunities; it gave her the self-esteem she needed to feel confident as an adult learner and as a professional in our field. Ms. Piña highly recommends other teachers like her to not to give up, to try hard to complete the CDA classes, to apply, and to earn the CDA Credential, so that door will also open for them to discover one’s potential, and a world of the early childhood education opportunities. In her own words, she says: “If not for the CDA credential, I would have never gone to college, not even in my dreams. My CDA is my reality, indeed my best first step in my long journey to be an accomplished and competent professional.”
Rebecca Planchard
Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Rebecca Planchard is the Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In this role she works collaboratively with DHHS leadership, other state agencies, and organizations across North Carolina to develop and support statewide goals for early childhood. She is the lead on the state’s Early Childhood Action Plan, and also directs the state’s Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS). Prior to joining DHHS, Rebecca served as the Early Childhood Policy Associate for the Chicago Mayor’s Office, where she coordinated citywide outreach efforts to encourage preschool enrollment, and worked across city agencies to advance the Mayor’s early education priorities. She also brings experience as an instructional coach for preschool, elementary, and middle school teachers in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Rebecca started her professional career in service as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. Rebecca is originally from Durham, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Duke University with a BA in Spanish, history, and political science, Magna Cum Laude, and the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in public policy and a certificate in municipal finance.
Megan Porter
State Anchor
North Carolina Rated License Assessment Project
Megan has worked with NCRLAP since 2001. She currently serves as a state anchor and has also been an assessor, reliability checker, and supervisor with NCRLAP. As anchor she works with the training and interrater reliability system for each of the ERS used for NC’s Star Rated License assessment process.
Mary Lee Porterfield
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Mary Lee Porterfield, MFA, MS, is a former DCDEE staff member where she worked with CCR&R & the quality enhancement projects, the QRIS advisory committee, & the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge projects. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Human Development & Family Studies Department at UNCG where she works on the measure development project and conducts research on opportunities to incorporate family engagement into QRIS as a quality improvement strategy.
Lisa Pullis
Program Director/Region 9 CCR& R Director
Lisa Campbell Pullis is the Program Director at the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children in Statesville, NC. She has worked in the early childhood field for over 24 years. Prior to her current role, Lisa was the Region 9 CCR&R Lead Agency Director, Professional Development Coordinator, Parent Educator for Parents As Teachers, preschool teacher, Human Resources Job Recruiter, and a prenatal Social Worker for a local hospital where she facilitated a variety of prenatal classes and parental support groups. Lisa is an advocate for equitable access and opportunities for early care and education services in her community and across the state of North Carolina. She is an endorsed cultural competency trainer and holds a Masters of Education in Early Childhood with an emphasis in Leadership & Program Administration and a certificate in Leadership and Early Childhood Education. Lisa enjoys spending time making memories with her four children and her husband. Her favorite quote is “Be the person you want to have in your life.”
Anthony Queen
Parent Liason
Great Start Collaborative of Kent County
Anthony Queen is a Parent Liaison with the Great Start Collaborative of Kent County, CT, a father advocate and single father and a founding member of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network.
Melissa Radcliff
Our Children’s Place of Coastal Horizons Center
Melissa Radcliff has been with Our Children’s Place of Coastal Horizons Center based in Wilmington, NC since February 2007. Our Children’s Place is a statewide education and advocacy program focused on children of incarcerated and returning parents. Prior to that she was the Executive Director and a founding staff member of the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County (now the Compass Center for Women and Families), the local domestic violence agency serving Orange County, NC. She has worked in the area of victim services since the 1990s at a domestic violence agency, rape crisis center, prosecutor’s office, and police department in Rhode Island, Arizona, and North Carolina. She serves as chair of the Pre-Release Committee for the Orange Correctional Center, a minimum security men’s prison facility located in Hillsborough, NC.
Rich Rairigh
Be Active Kids
Phillip Redmond
Redmond joined the Endowment in 2000 after serving as executive director of the Children’s Law Center in Charlotte, N.C. Prior to that, he was in private practice. Redmond is Chair of the Council on Accreditation Board of Trustees.
Grace Reef
Early Learning Policy Group, LLC
Grace Reef is the founder of the Early Learning Policy Group, LLC, a northern Virginia based early childhood consultant firm. A veteran political and policy strategist, Grace worked for 17 years in the U.S. Senate as a senior policy advisor on issues related to families with children for Senators George Mitchell, Tom Daschle and Chris Dodd. “Off Capitol Hill,” Grace was the Chief of Policy & Evaluation for 7 years at the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), currently doing business as Child Care Aware® of America. Grace’s experience ranges from child care, Head Start, and state Pre-K policy to welfare reform and family economic stability. She has worked with a number of state coalitions in partnership with the Alliance for Early Success seeking to strengthen access to quality child care. Grace has been working in Mecklenburg County for 2 years on a project related to expanding access to early childhood education for children from birth to age 5. The Early Learning Policy Group focuses on strengthening the quality of child care at the federal and state level through policy analysis, strategic thinking and partnership building, effective communication and advocacy approaches, and pursuing alternative financing approaches and best business practices to support early childhood initiatives.
Lindsay Reeves
Director of Early Childhood Programs
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo System
Lindsay Reeves was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado and has used her experience as a community collaborator to challenge the status quo with the hope of creating a better future for tomorrow’s leaders. Early on in her career, Lindsay learned the value of collective impact…the notion that we are stronger together than any one of us can be strong alone. This has been the common thread among all the work Lindsay has accomplished thus far and will continue to do in the future. Lindsay began her career serving as the Secretary for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative at Pueblo City Schools, an initiative that brought a diverse scope of community agencies together to think about how the health and wellness of the community’s children could be approached collectively and collaboratively. Lindsay then served as the Community Engagement Director for the Pueblo Triple Aim Corporation, a community collaborative working to make Pueblo the healthiest county in Colorado. One look at Pueblo’s health statistics would tell you we had a long way to go, but Lindsay worked with agencies from across the community and from every sector imaginable to examine how work was being done, the impact it was having on the intended populations and the opportunities that arose for collaboration and the reduction in duplicative efforts. Lindsay now serves as the Director of Early Childhood Programs at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo System and the Project Coordinator for LAUNCH Together Pueblo. She is responsible for ensuring families receive the proper supports and resources at the right time and place, every time. Lindsay is working to create a robust system that meets families where they are at, encourages family voice and choice and promotes no shame, no blame. She is also heavily involved in volunteer opportunities throughout the community including the Heroin Task Force and the Adult Literacy Program at the Pueblo City-County Library District and serves on the Latino Chamber of Commerce and McClelland School Boards of Directors. Lindsay received her Master’s of Nonprofit Management from Regis University in 2013 and her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2011. Lindsay loves spending time with her two puppies, Penelope and Sadie Mae as well as checking another NHL arena off her list to watch her beloved Colorado Avalanche hockey team.
Erika Retzlaff
LAUNCH Together Pueblo Assistant Coordinator
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo
Erika Retzlaff was born and raised in Pueblo County. She attended Colorado State University-Pueblo for undergrad where she received her bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training with minors in leadership studies and business administration. She is currently continuing her education at Colorado State University Global, pursuing a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration. Erika began her career with the LAUNCH Together Pueblo team at Catholic Charities where she currently serves as the Assistant Coordinator of the grant. LAUNCH Together Pueblo’s mission is to unite community partners and families in a collaborative network to ensure that all of Pueblo’s children prenatal through age eight are valued, healthy, thriving and prepared for school and life. LAUNCH takes a systems level approach at attacking this mission in three areas in the Pueblo Community. Policy and systems level work is what Erika has a passion for. Through this work, Erika has created a community wide early childhood communications platform which includes a website, social media, and a team of partners sharing the same message. Aside from work, Erika is very active in the Pueblo community. She developed Rotaract, a young professional’s organization, into what it is today. This organization provides professional development opportunities to emerging leaders in the community through the ideal of service above self. She is also involved with numerous boards and committees within the community to include chairing the Pueblo Youth Empowerment Council and being a member with Communities That Care, One Community, and the Pueblo Early Childhood Council. Colorado holds a special place in Erika’s heart. She wants to continue to make a difference in the community while challenging the status quo and creating a better future for Colorado’s children. Erika enjoys coaching soccer in her free time as well as spending time with family and loved ones.
Rhodus Riggins
Quality Enhancement Coordinator
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Rhodus Riggins, Jr. is a grassroots advocate and ECE professional with 28 years of experience in research, technical assistance, professional development, and evaluation. He is a Quality Enhancement Coordinator at EQUIPD, UNCG. He is an endorsed cultural competency trainer. He holds an M.Ed in Educational Leadership, Public Policy, and Advocacy.
Michele Rivest
Policy Director
NC Early Education Coalition
Michele Rivest is the Policy Director at the NC Early Education Coalition, a statewide advocacy association dedicated to advancing quality early care and education in North Carolina. Michele leads the Coalition’s state policy and advocacy efforts for young children and their families. She also coordinates the Think Babies™ NC initiative. Michele has extensive experience in early childhood policy at the national, state and local levels, and an education background in early childhood education and public policy.
Robin Roberts
Southeast Regional Implementation Support Specialist and International Initiatives
Parents as Teachers
Robin Roberts is the Southeast Regional Implementation Support Specialist and International Initiatives contact for Parents as Teachers. Robin began her career with PAT in 1993 in the mountains of Kentucky where she discovered the great need for and the power of family support services, particularly with a focus on young children. She discovered that through programs like PAT she could positively impact the trajectory of the life of a child. It not only began a career but a mission to empower parents to provide the best possible start in life for their child. She has been involved with PAT for 25 years as a parent educator, program supervisor, state leader, national trainer, and PAT National Center Board of Directors member. Robin has a MS from the University of Tennessee. She currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, Jeff.
Zita Roberts
NC Triple P Coordinator
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Zita Roberts has served as the North Carolina Triple P Coordinator at the Division of Public Health, Women’s and Children’s Health Section, Children and Youth Branch, and Health and Wellness Unit., for the past five years. In this role, she coordinates the activities related to the implementation of NC Triple P across the state such as planning the North Carolina Triple P State Learning Collaborative, State Leadership Team activities and providing support to other related implementation activities; manages data collection, “Stay Positive” materials distribution, and manages the North Carolina Triple Parent and Provider websites; and provides support to the local Triple P service areas and individual sites. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in School and Community Health Education from East Carolina University and a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Gardner Webb University. Her professional career consists of 24 years at Cleveland County Health Department as a health educator (15 years) and later as a project/case Manager (9 years), two years of experience with Carolina Therapeutic Services as a foster care parent supervisor, and five years as the NC Triple P coordinator.
Melea Rose-Waters
Partnership Engagement Manager
Prevent Child Abuse NC
Melea Rose-Waters, MSW, is the Partnership Engagement Manager with Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. She is a graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work with a Community Management and Policy Practice focus. Melea believes that all children deserve to grow up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment free of abuse and neglect. As a National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds Certified Trainer of Bringing the Protective Factors to Life in Your Work, she offers trainings on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework and ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) to cross-sector organizations as well as community members statewide. As a catalyst for child maltreatment prevention on the local level, Melea engaged with a cross-sector group in Cumberland County, NC to develop the state’s first Community Child Abuse Prevention Plan using the Protective Factors Framework. The model is now being replicated in counties across the state. As a longtime advocate for children and families, Melea has been a grassroots campaign organizer who partnered with parents and organizations to lift up the voices of families in local, state, and national policy. Employees of multiple counties and municipalities, including Wake and Durham, now benefit from Paid Family Leave policies that were enacted through campaigns that Melea supported. Prior to her advocacy work, she provided a safe environment for families who had a history of domestic violence through supervised visitation and monitored exchange services. She also has facilitated groups and trainings as a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. Originally from Georgia, she has lived in North Carolina for 14 years and considers this beautiful state her home.
Lia Rucker
North Carolina Rated License Assessment Project
Lia has worked with NCRLAP since 1999 and is a state anchor. As anchor, she works with the training and interrater reliability system for each of the Environment Rating Scales used for NC’s Star Rated License assessment process. She is also involved with ongoing projects involving the use of other early childhood classroom and program quality measures.
Sue Russell
Executive Director
T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center
Sue Russell is currently Executive Director of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center which helps states implement effective workforce strategies to create education, compensation and career pathways for their early care and education workforce. Sue has over 48 years of experience in the early childhood profession, most recently as the President/CEO of Child Care Services Association. Her work has included developing successful national workforce initiatives like T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® and Child Care WAGE$®. She has worked on the development and implementation of effective policies and systems to improve access to high quality early childhood programs for all children, and led research teams on numerous studies of the early childhood workforce, the early care and education system and access issues for children from families with low incomes and infants and toddlers. She continues to serve on numerous state and national boards and committees, and has served terms as both President and Treasurer of the NAEYC Governing Board.
Jodi Safris
Director of Student Services
Holy Trinity School
Jodi Safris, MSEd is currently serving as the Director of Student Services at Holy Trinity School in Des Moines, Iowa. Previously she served at Holy Trinity as a Professional School Counselor. Jodi has over five years experience serving high need behavior students. She is passionate about creating positive relationships and interventions with high behavior, at-risk students.
Katherine Savage
After receiving a degree in Elementary Education in Boone, NC, Katherine Savage earned an M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Special Education. Much of her early professional career was spent working with young children who experience disabilities and consulting with child care programs, which she then extended into supporting faith communities in NC to become inclusive congregations. After nine years of focused energy raising three daughters, she returned to take positions with the Division of Public Health in the Newborn Hearing Screening unit and the Office on Disability and Health, and the Division of Child Development and Early Education as a subsidy policy specialist. She then became a Training Developer for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. As part of this work, she co-developed a curriculum which continues the development of the children’s home language and reflect their families’ culture. Presently she is Program Manager for a collective impact project called The Yancey Alliance for Young Children, and Program Coordinator for The Blue Ridge Partnership for Children. She lives in Celo, NC.
Scottie Seawell
Vice President
Leading and Governing Associates, Inc
Scottie Seawell, Vice President of Leading and Governing Associates, Inc., a governance education and leadership consulting practice, has worked at the federal, state and local levels including experience as an Executive Director of a non-profit association. Through Leading and Governing she works with members of elected boards and nonprofit organizations in North Carolina including several Smart Start partnerships on strategic planning, board governance, board and executive leadership, succession planning and fund development. She earned her B.A. from George Washington University and her M.P.A. from American University, both in Washington, DC.
Tina Sherman
Rhea Singh
FEED Specialist
Down East Partnership
Rhea Singh is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who studied global public health. She found herself unexpectedly in North Carolina after feeling powerfully drawn to Food Systems and spent a year as a FoodCorps service member at DEPC. She is now the FEED Specialist and Down East Partnership and is thrilled to be working at the convergence of Food, Business, and Policy.
Mike Sistak
Senior Director for Government Affairs
First Things First
Mike Sistak is Senior Director for Government Affairs at First Things First. He has held prior Government Affairs positions with the University of Arizona and the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce. His past experience includes serving on the staff of former U.S. Senator John McCain and working on numerous political campaigns.
Linda Smith
Executive Director
Alliance for Children
– Executive Director of Alliance for Children, - focused on equipping young children for success by advocating and investing in efforts that strengthen their health, education, and emotional development; contributing to Union County’s sustained economic vitality in a globally competitive world. Linda currently serves on the Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Workforce Development Task Force, the Smart Start Executive Director State Design Team, is a member of Union County Women in Business and serves on the Care Ministry Team at Lee Park Church. Linda has over 30 years of experience in education and nonprofit work with twenty-one years in the classroom and then with Career and Technical Education in Union County Public Schools. Through her leadership as JobReady Partnership Director, Linda has collaborated with local organizations and businesses providing educational opportunities to students across the county. She is a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina and a Family and Consumer Science graduate of Appalachian State University. Linda and her husband David have raised two children in Union County, Daniel and Sara. She also has three grandchildren who are a source of joy and a reminder of hope in our future.
Deena Smitherman
Parent Leader
Mattapan Head Start and Family Services
Deena Smitherman is a Parent Leader with Mattapan Head Start and Family Services in Boston, MA, a community volunteer, a mother of three and a founding member of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network.
Kristi Snuggs
Deputy Director of Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE)
NC Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Kristi Lee Snuggs is the Deputy Director of DHHS’ Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). She began her career in 1994 working with Montgomery Community College as an Early Childhood Instructor, Department Chair and Director of the College’s Child Development Center. During her tenure, Montgomery County received their first Smart Start grant and the Child Development Center Teaching Laboratory obtained the first 5-Star Child Care License in Montgomery County. In 2001, Dr. Snuggs left the college to become an Educational Consultant for Early Childhood, Teacher Education, and Public Service Technologies with the North Carolina Community College System Office in Raleigh. Dr. Snuggs’ position provided support and technical assistance for all 58 community colleges’ early childhood programs. While working as an Educational Consultant with the North Carolina Community College System, Dr. Snuggs worked collaboratively with Appalachian State University, East Carolina University and multiple community colleges to develop a cohort model of local educational attainment known as the Appalachian Learning Alliance and the State Employees Credit Union Partnership East. These initiatives were instrumental in developing “home grown teachers” which have been catalysts for economic development in rural, underserved areas of the state. Additionally, Dr. Snuggs began work with several state agencies, the NC University System, and private 4-year institutions to create a seamless pathway through a statewide articulation agreement for early childhood education students. Dr. Snuggs also served on the inaugural NAEYC creation and selection team for accreditation criteria for two-year associate degree educational programs. As a member of the team, she led the first cohort of 17 NC community colleges through the process of obtaining program accreditation. Finally, Dr. Snuggs partnered with researchers from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center to secure a $2.5 M dollar Department of Education grant to create the first online early childhood education courses and a delivery and support system for early childhood teachers. She left the North Carolina Community College System in August of 2005, shortly after working with Representative Joe Tolson to help pen legislation allowing community colleges to train lateral entry teachers in collaboration with university partners and the Department of Public Instruction. In September of 2015, Dr. Snuggs accepted the position of Vice President of Instruction with Edgecombe Community College. As a senior administrator, Dr. Snuggs continued her work on articulation with an 18-month appointment on the state-level Comprehensive Articulation Agreement Steering Committee rewriting the original articulation document between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina University System. Additionally, she was chosen by Dr. Scott Ralls, NC Community College System President, to serve as one of four academic administrators on the Steering Committee for establishing Performance Measures for institutions of higher education and an additional funding mechanism for superior performing institutions. She also served on the Development Education Initiative’s Steering Committee as North Carolina redesigned their developmental education programs. Under Dr. Snuggs leadership the college saw unprecedented growth in enrollment, and she led the college through its 10-year reaffirmation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges with no recommendations. In 2014, Dr. Snuggs left the college to become the Child Development Division Director of NEED, Inc. in Rocky Mount. NEED, Inc. is a multi-faceted, non-profit Community Action Agency which operates and administers a wide variety of anti-poverty programs such as Head Start, USDA Child and Adult Food Program, HUD-Section 8 Housing program, and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. Dr. Snuggs oversaw the Head Start program which served 633 children and families, including 36 NC Pre-K children spanning three counties. Under Dr. Snuggs leadership the program secured additional funding for NC Pre-K slots and training initiatives, elevated all eight child care facilities to 5-Star Licensed centers, and successfully passed seven federal reviews from the Administration of Families and Children, Office of Head Start with no findings. She joined the Division of Child Development and Early Education in January of 2018. Dr. Snuggs received her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University in Greenville and her master’s in Child and Family Development and bachelor’s degrees from Appalachian State University in Boone. Dr. Snuggs is married to Phillip and has two daughters, Kali, 25 and Keslee, 22.
Mandy Sorge
Senior Policy Analyst
National Governor's Association
Mandy Sorge is a Senior Policy Analyst for Early Care and Education in the Education Division at NGA, where she works on early childhood education issues, from birth through third grade. Prior to joining NGA, she worked in training and technical assistance for the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grants. In this role, she helped lead the evaluation of training and technical assistance, as well as writing and developing training materials and resources to support effective implementation of these grants. She began her career as an early childhood educator working in Early Head Start and child care classrooms in both North Carolina and Washington, D.C. Mandy holds a master's degree in Education Policy from the George Washington University and a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently an Ed.D. candidate with the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University.
Bob Sornson
Early Learning Foundation
Bob Sornson is the founder of the Early Learning Foundation. He is a best-selling author whose books include Brainless Sameness: The Demise of One-Size-Fits-All Instruction and the Rise of Competency Based Learning. Dr. Sornson has worked with educators in 48 states and internationally. He is a leading voice for high-quality competency based learning, parent involvement, and the importance of early learning success.
Adam Sotak
Public Engagement Specialist
NC Child
Adam joined NC Child in November 2015. In his role as Public Engagement Director, he leads NC Child’s advocacy efforts to promote economic opportunity and improve children’s health and well-being. He has nearly 20 years of community organizing and policy advocacy experience here in North Carolina. During his career he has received numerous awards including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP’s “Unsung Hero” Award. Born in West Virginia, Adam moved to Salisbury, NC (the home of Cheerwine) at age 12. He received his BSW from Appalachian State University and MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham with his wife, Tara, and three children Anders, Harriet, and Bennett. Adam can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 228 or at adam@ncchild.org.
Sedra Spano
Regional Director
Sedra Spano began her career as a Pre-K teacher in Chapel Hill, NC and has worked in the field of education for over 25 years. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M. Ed. in Educational Psychology both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining Teachstone in 2010, Sedra worked on the National Center for Research in Early Childhood Education (NCRECE) professional development study both as a CLASS instructor and a CLASS coach supporting Pre-K teachers in Charlotte NC. At Teachstone Sedra served as a MyTeachingPartner (MTP) Specialist for three years and is now a Regional Director working with states in the southeast on their use of the CLASS and CLASS-based professional development.
LouMecia Staton
Community Outreach Manager
Partnership for Children of Guilford County
LouMecia J. Staton, MSA currently serves as the Community Outreach Manager for the Partnership for Children of Guilford County. She has over 15 years of non-profit experience working in areas such as: program administration/development, case management, community outreach, consultation, child development and human services. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from North Carolina Central University in Family & Consumer Sciences with a Concentration in Child Development & Family Relations and a Master’s Degree from Central Michigan University in Administration with a Concentration in Leadership.
Caroline Sweezy
Program Manager
Be Active Kids
Caroline Sweezy is the Be Active Kids Program Manager. She attended Meredith College as a psychology major with a minor in child development. She received her Master of Science degree in the field of Child Development and Family Relations at East Carolina University with a concentration in Child Life. Currently, Caroline travels across the state of North Carolina facilitating Be Active Kids training sessions and sharing resources that assist early childhood professionals in meeting physical activity best practices with young children. Throughout her career, Caroline’s passion has always been advocating for the importance of play in the life of a child and educating others on how to adopt a playful and engaging approach that supports the healthy development of children in their care. She has a strong awareness for how increased opportunities for physical activity and being outdoors can have a positive impact on people of all ages, especially kids!
Taren Swindle
Dr. Taren Swindle’s broad focus of research is to understand and improve health and developmental outcomes for children impacted by poverty, with a particular focus on obesity prevention and nutrition promotion. Her work to date has focused on the early-education setting as a key context for interventions to prevent obesity prevention and promote nutrition. Dr. Swindle is PI on a K01 Career Development Award from NIDDK (2016–2020; DK110141-01). The K01 aims to apply principles of Implementation Science to support the uptake and sustainability of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) for obesity prevention and nutrition promotion in childcare. She is a co-developer of the WISE curriculum that is the bases of the work described.
Susan L. Taylor
National CARES Mentoring Movement
After 27 years as the chief editor of Essence magazine and the visionary credited with building the brand, Susan L. Taylor left publishing to devote her life to building an organization that is devoted to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty among African Americans. The National CARES Mentoring Movement is that organization: a community transformation crusade dedicated to “changing the predictable futures defined for our young who are struggling along the margins and living with the indignity of poverty,” she says. At Essence magazine, Taylor not only served as chief editor, but also authored the magazine's most popular column, In the Spirit—the first in a mainstream U.S. magazine to champion spiritual growth as a pathway to total well-being and a meaningful life. Under her guidance, the publication's readership soared to eight million in the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, the U.K. and English-speaking African nations, and the Essence brand expanded into book publishing, broadcasting, eyewear, hosiery and its own fashion catalogue. But nowhere outside the magazine did she bring people and Black culture together so beautifully as with the launching of the Essence Music Festival and its famous empowerment seminars. Founded by Susan Taylor in 2005 as Essence CARES, the National CARES Mentoring Movement is the fastest growing mentor-recruitment organization in the nation. In 58 U.S. cities, local CARES Affiliates recruit, train and deploy caring adults to schools and a wide variety of youth-serving organizations that are desperate for Black volunteers to serve as mentors, tutors, reading buddies and role models. Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts and U.S. Dream Academy are among the hundreds of organizations for which the CARES volunteer army of passionate CARES Affiliate leaders recruit mentors. To date, National CARES has recruited more than 130,000 mentors. Deepening her commitment to create pathways out of poverty that equip children with the confidence, well-being and skills they must have to succeed, Susan Taylor is leading National CARES in taking a bold leap forward. In 2009, Taylor formed a brain trust of nationally renowned educators, community activists, business and faith leaders, physicians, psychologists and nutritionists. Their charge was to bring their best thinking to moving what is most needed for African Americans to move to wellness in body, mind, spirit and community. A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America was the outcome, an initiative and training manual for mentoring our young and healing communities. Susan L. Taylor is the editor of eight books, and the author of four books: the best-seller In the Spirit; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she co-authored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and her most recent book, All About Love. Taylor’s genius has not gone unrecognized. She is the first and the only African American woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award — the industry's highest honor — and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of scores of prestigious awards, including presidential citations, Image Awards and the NAACP President's Award for Visionary Leadership, and has honorary doctorate degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities. Susan Taylor’s vision is clear: calling together a critical mass of caring people to work strategically, peacefully and passionately to heal all that is hurting our children, communities and country. She is a much sought-after speaker, inspiring hope and encouraging us to reclaim our lives and empower leaders who are devoted to creating peace, top-tier schools and safe, self-sustaining communities.
Bridget Thomas
Senior Education Researcher
Quality Information Partners (QIP)
Dr. Thomas is a senior education researcher with Quality Information Partners (QIP) in Fairfax, Virginia, and an adjunct professor of education policy and research methods at George Mason University. Her expertise includes education policy, research methods, early childhood education, and teacher evaluation. At QIP, she serves as a researcher, writer, analyst, and editor on contracts for the U.S. Department of Education, state educational associations, and foundations. Her writing and professional presentations place her at the intersection of research and practice, with a particular focus on translating data and information to meet the needs of different audiences.
Christine Tucker
Interim Director
Verner Center for Early Learning
With over 30 years in the Early Education field, Chris continues to strive for excellence and best practice every day in her role as Director of Curriculum and Education at Verner Center for Early Learning in Asheville, NC. Chris has a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and a minor degree in Psychology. She has received numerous hours of training in curriculum, administration and Trauma-Informed Care. For the last several years, Chris has found a passion in training and supporting teachers through curriculum, environment and Trauma-Informed practices. Combining a love for horses, Chris also works as an Equine Specialist doing Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy with at-risk youth utilizing the same Trauma-Informed theories and approach.
Marshall Tyson
Branch Head for the Children and Youth Branch
North Carolina Division of Public Health
Marshall completed his undergraduate degree at East Carolina University and received his MPH in Public Health Leadership from the University of North Carolinian-Chapel Hill, School of Public Health in 2000. In addition, in 2014 he graduated from the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Leadership Institute, an intensive leadership development program through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He currently serves as the Branch Head for the Children and Youth Branch in the North Carolina Division of Public Health. The Branch supports programs and services for children, birth through age 20. In addition he serves as the State Title V Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Director.
Victoria Vample
Center Operations Director
Guilford Child Development Early Head Start/ Head Start
Victoria Vample is a Center Operations Director with Guilford Child Development Early Head Start/ Head Start, where she uses her leadership skills to supervise the Center Directors at thirteen sites in Guilford County. She has worked in the field of early childhood education in various roles for over fifteen years. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals. Victoria holds a B.S. in Child Development and Family Studies and a Masters of Education with a focus on Leadership, Policy and Advocacy in Early Childhood.
Chad Waldron
University of Michigan-Flint
Dr. Waldron joined the University of Michigan-Flint in September 2016 and teaches literacy coursework in the literacy education graduate program and the elementary education undergraduate program. He earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education with a Language and Literacy Studies Specialization from Michigan State University in May 2014. Prior to UM-Flint, he was an assistant professor of Language and Literacy Studies at Penn State Behrend. His research focuses on improving teacher learning and professional development for elementary school teachers, analyzing how educational policy and reforms have impacted instructional practices in literacy education and assessment, and promoting family involvement in young children’s literacy development.
Valora Washington
Cheif Executive Officer
Council for Professional Recognition
With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Valora Washington is a recognized authority in early care and education. She has conceptualized, led, facilitated and executed significant change initiatives. Spanning higher education; local, state, and federal government; organizational development; research; and advocacy, her efforts have led to strategic changes for policy, programs, and practice in philanthropy, national organizations and local initiatives. She was chosen in 2018 by Exchange magazine as Doyens (the most respected or prominent person in a field). Valora Washington, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, leads the largest credentialing program (CDA) for early educators in the USA. She is certified as an Association Executive and a Credentialing Specialist. Valora co-founded Voices for Michigan’s Children, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, and the CAYL Institute (a leadership development program for practitioners). Valora holds four honorary degrees and professional recognition from the Barr Fellowship; Leadership Greater Washington; Boston AEYC; NAEYC Black Caucus; Cambridge Resource and Referral; Center for Adoption Research; National Association of Black Social Workers; United Way of Massachusetts Bay; and others. She was named one of “25 Most Influential Working Mothers” by Working Mother magazine, and was chosen as one of “Ten Outstanding Young Women of America” from 62,000 nominations. She has held leadership roles with the Massachusetts Governor’s School Readiness Commission; Voices for America’s Children; NAEYC; Black Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development; National Head Start Association Commission on 2010; Boston Children’s Museum; and Wheelock College. Valora has authored over 50 publications, including Children of 2010 and Children of 2020. Since coauthoring Ready or Not with Stacie, Valora has coauthored The New Early Childhood Professional and Guiding Principles for the New Early Childhood Professional. She formerly served as Vice President at Antioch College and the Kellogg Foundation and as a tenured faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Renee Watkins
Parent Educator
Rockingham Partnership for Children
Renee Watkins is the divorced mother of two college students. She has 21 years of experience in the field of early childhood education. She was the sole owner/director of Naye's Luv-n-Care for 9 years where she achieved a 5 star rated license for her family childcare program, which she operated from 1996-2005. She has been a parent educator for the Parents As Teachers Program with the Rockingham County Partnership for Children for the last 13 years. Renee believes that all children must have equitable chances despite the color of their skin or the socio-economic status of their family. She has a passion for working with families and young children and believes that you must meet families where they are and get to know them, what motivates them, as well as the struggles they face to truly make a difference in their lives.
Angela Webster
Executive Director
Angela Webster, MSW is Executive Director for AIMHiTN, a recently launched nonprofit organization striving to promote infant and early childhood mental health through building awareness, promoting professional capacity, fostering partnerships and supporting policies which are in the best interest of infants, young children and their families. While much of her career has focused on program development, nonprofit administration, and policy advocacy, Ms. Webster spent the early years of her career working in early childhood education. Ms. Webster has a strong background in policy and grassroots advocacy work having previously provided administrative oversight of a multi-state region for an international child and community development organization. During her time with the agency, she oversaw organizations across 9 states whose focus were families with children birth to age 18 living in extreme poverty. Programs provided by these organizations included early childhood wellness programs and parent support and education programs. Immediately prior to her transition to AIMHiTN, Ms. Webster was Director of Public Policy for Disability Rights Tennessee, where she spent nearly seven years leading the public policy team and building the agency’s capacity to impact systemic change at all levels by means of a broad range of policy advocacy efforts.
Anna White
Katie Whitehouse
Program Manager at Early Childhood Success
Institute for Youth, Education and Families at the National League of Cities
Katie Whitehouse is a Program Manager for Early Childhood Success at the Institute for Youth, Education and Families at the National League of Cities. leads planning and implementation of the work and manages relationships with partners. She assists city leaders in supporting and developing local systems of early childhood services and education for children and families in their communities. Prior to joining the NLC, Katie was the Policy and Legislative Associate for Voices for Progress, an advocacy firm championing progressive policies in the federal legislature. She earned a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Leanne Whiteside-Mansell
Director of Research/ Professor
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Whiteside-Mansell has more than 90 publications related to parenting and child development in at-risk populations. She is a member of Network of Infant Toddler Researchers (NITR), has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Marriage and Family, and has conducted research with home visiting and center-based serving at-risk children since 1993. She is particularly interested how early childcare programs can collaborate with parents to improve the home environment. She is a co-developer of a nutrition curriculum(WISE) that is the bases of the work described.
Grace Whitney
Early Childhood Initiatives for SchoolHouse Connection
Grace Whitney, PhD, MPA, IMH-E (IV) is currently Director of Early Childhood Initiatives for SchoolHouse Connection. Prior to that she served as Director of Connecticut’s Head Start State Collaboration Office for more than 20 years. She began her career as a preschool teacher in special education and as a home visitor for at-risk families of infants and toddlers, and has since held clinical and administrative positions in early childhood, community mental health, human services, and on aide teams abroad. Dr. Whitney has taught full time and as an adjunct instructor in developmental psychology, statistics, and public policy and has served on local, regional and national Boards. She’s published and presented on various topics related to her work and designed government documents, including three informational modules and related core knowledge and competencies for consultants to programs serving infants and toddlers and the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters. She holds degrees in child and human development, family studies, and public administration and is endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Policy Mentor.
Tavares Wilkerson
Family Resource Counselor
Partnership for Children of Cumberland County
Tavares Wilkerson has worked with the Partnership for Children since May 2017. She has a MA in Marriage and Family Counseling and 17 years’ experience working in the community. She is also an active member of the NC Parent Education Network and certified as a Nationally Certified Trainer in the Strengthening Families Protective Factor’s Framework. Mrs. Wilkerson has several certifications to include Active Parenting First Five Years, Parent Café with Be Strong Families and she is a certified Life Coach.
Jan Williams
Clinical Supervisor
Healthy Families Durham/Center for Child & Family Health
Jan Williams, LCSW has been working for 30 years with children and families. After being instrumental in the formation of Healthy Families Durham at the Center for Child and Family Health in 1996, she served as Program Director for fifteen years and is now serving as Clinical Supervisor. She has a strong interest in evidence-based programming for the prevention of child abuse and promotion of school readiness in young children, and has experience working in the Healthy Families, Parents as Teachers, and Early Head Start Home-based models. She has devoted much time to understanding the impact of trauma and secondary traumatic stress on home visitors and home visiting programs, and is becoming known as a national speaker on these issues. Jan has presented at numerous state and local conferences and has received the Donna Stone Award from Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and two Champion for Children awards from Durham’s Partnership for Children.
Vernon Williams
Kim Butler Willis
Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
Kimberly Butler Willis is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) and has managed community health initiatives for over 10 years within non-profits and large healthcare systems. Most notably, she led the development of two thriving hospital-sponsored community health initiatives – WellPartners Dental and Vision Clinic, a free dental and optical clinic for uninsured patients in mid-region of SC and Healthy Tri-County, a regional initiative powered by over 50 organizations and 80+ volunteers to improve health outcomes in the Charleston metropolitan area. Kimberly is able to use her strategic thinking and galvanizing skills to help organizations develop operations that promote equitable, high quality healthcare for our most vulnerable communities. Kimberly is also an adjunct Healthcare Administration Instructor for Webster University and Director of the Ryan White Wellness Center at Roper St. Francis Healthcare – a comprehensive sexual health center for nearly 900 adults from seven counties along the coast of SC. Since joining the center in 2014, the Ryan White Wellness Center has significantly increased its patient enrollment and has been nationally recognized by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) HIV/ AIDS Bureau (HAB) in 2016, 2017 and 2018 for its high quality care, patient-centered healthcare strategies, and noteworthy strategic planning and federal spending.
Angela Wilson-Newsome
Angela Wilson-Newsome – Angela Wilson-Newsome is a Mentor/Evaluator with the Early Educator Support, Licensure, and Professional Development Program (EESLPD), at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and an Education Specialist at UNC-TV/Public Media North Carolina. In both roles, she provides educational and professional development support to teachers and families of preschool children. During Angela’s lengthy career in the Early Childhood field, she has been fortunate to serve young children and their families through a variety of positions including owner/director of a Five Star childcare facility, NC PreK Lead Teacher, and workshop facilitator. She attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for both undergraduate and graduate studies. She has also served as an advisor/board member with several educational, municipal, and civic organizations. She believes that each child is unique, and that we should always look for the best in them. When we do, they will become confident in their own abilities and do amazing things! Outside of business hours, Angela is a loving wife and mother of two sons. She loves spending time with her family, cooking soul food, and flipping houses.
Karen Yarbrough
Independent Consultant
Karen Yarbrough is an independent consultant providing expertise on early childhood service systems, and social justice oriented public policy and advocacy. Karen’s career has focused at the intersection of research, policy, and practice – helping programs incorporate research-based practices; ensuring that public policy is responsive to cutting edge research and the needs of vulnerable families; and advocating for public funding to support the needs of young children and their families. In her consulting practice, Karen enjoys helping clients negotiate the complexities of early childhood systems building and bringing about concrete, positive change. Karen was schooled in early childhood public policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, where she served in numerous leadership roles including as Director of the Birth to Five Project, Illinois’ Build Initiative, and serving as co-chair of the Infant Toddler Committee of the Illinois Early Learning Council. Karen has produced and directed production of policy research and analysis for a range of audiences on diverse topics including home visiting, child care, workforce, and birth to five systems. Karen also provides facilitation of organizational and project level strategic planning, and creation and delivery of policy training. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest College and master’s degree from The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She lives Oak Park, Illinois with her three boys where she has truly found her home after enjoying an upbringing that ranged from America’s south to Europe and the Middle-East.
Dilara Yaya-Bryson
Graduate Student in Human Development and Family Studies
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Dilara is a current graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies, having previously studied preschool learning environments while completing a doctorate in Turkey.
Julie Zack
Root Cause
Julie has over 20 years of experience in early childhood and community child health, from infancy through adolescence and into young adulthood. She has consulted to dozens of organizations, spanning the nonprofit, government and philanthropic sectors, including how cross-sector teams can work more effectively together via intermediaries or other structures. Much of her work has been for organizations and initiatives that are just getting started or are in the early stages of expansion. Areas of expertise include strategy and planning, scaling impact, building a sustainable organizational structure and business model, and measuring and demonstrating results. Most recently, Julie has been working on projects focused on early childhood system building. Prior to joining Root Cause, Julie worked in direct service in both front-line staff and supervisory roles. She has provided counseling and case management services for youth at-risk for dropping out of school, worked with pregnant and parenting teens in state custody, started and led an after-school program for middle school youth, and served as a clinical social work fellow in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Corey Zimmerman
Director of Policy and Scaling Strategies
Center on the Developing Child
Corey Zimmerman is the Director of Policy and Scaling Strategies and provides strategic leadership to the development of the innovation pipeline for the early childhood field, focusing on how to support intervention teams to transition to scalability. Corey also directs the Center’s strategy for how the science can be used to drive new ideas in policy and systems. Corey brings to this work extensive experience advocating and shaping social policy on behalf of young children and families from her prior work at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the MA Dept. of Early Education and Care, and at Nurtury, Inc. Corey holds an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tracy Zimmerman
Executive Director
Tracy has dedicated her career to working on behalf of public interest organizations. She helped found the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), where she serves as Executive Director. NCECF is driven by the vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong health, education and well-being, supported by the nation’s premiere birth-to-eight system. Under her leadership, NCECF launched its signature initiative, the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways). Pathways is a collaborative effort bringing together the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. She also serves on My Future NC, a statewide commission on educational attainment led by North Carolina’s public education systems and was appointed to the Birth-through-Third Grade Interagency Council. Prior to NCECF, she led The North Carolina Partnership for Children’s (NCPC) public engagement efforts and developed the First 2,000 Days campaign. Tracy previously served as the Public Relations Director at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC and as Senior Vice President at The Hauser Group in Washington DC, where she created an award-winning public health campaign on infertility prevention for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Elaine Zukerman
Infant/Toddler Education and Advocacy Coordinator
NC Early Education Coalition
Elaine Zukerman is the Infant/Toddler Education and Advocacy Coordinator at the NC Early Education Coalition. With a background in communications and marketing, Elaine leads communications efforts and helps to coordinate statewide education and advocacy for the Think Babies™ NC initiative. Previously, Elaine was the Communications Manager at Durham’s Partnership for Children, and prior to that she worked in communications in higher education and the music industry.