Ready for School, Ready for Life seeks partners for Phase II work

For immediate release
Media contact: Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications
stephanies@getreadyguilford.org or 336.579.2977 ext. 2015

(March 17, 2022 — GREENSBORO, N.C.) Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready), is seeking responses from local partners to lead the initial implementation of community-wide strategies designed to improve outcomes for children ages three to five in Guilford County.

A Design Team of diverse community stakeholders from across Guilford County worked for six months to develop 10 strategies designed to improve services for these children and their families. Three strategies will be piloted in Guilford County this year:

  • To increase alignment between early care and education programs and the school system, implement coordination activities, including offering joint professional development between child care center staff and kindergarten teachers and offering transition supports to families (e.g., coaching, virtual school tours, etc.).
  • To improve children’s early literacy skills, implement a county-wide active reading effort. We anticipate selecting evidence-based interventions to implement across settings (public libraries, home-based care, child care centers, etc.) that will encourage adults to read frequently with children, focusing on families reading with children more at home.
  • To improve adults’ and children’s social-emotional development, implement and expand evidence-based interventions targeting children ages 3-5. We anticipate training adults serving children in various settings, like educational and medical settings, so that they are better equipped to build children’s skills and competencies.

Ready Ready anticipates partners will respond to lead implementation of one of the three strategies.

Interested organizations may view the RFP Webinar which provides an overview of Ready Ready’s current and proposed work. Learn more about the three strategies selected for initial implementation by viewing a strategy-specific webinar linked below.

RFP Webinar: Early Care & Education/Kindergarten Transition & Alignment

RFP Webinar: Active Reading

RFP Webinar: Social-Emotional Development

You may view all RFP-related documents, including a Q&A, by visiting this link.

The intent to apply form can be found here and is due by the end of the day on Monday, March 28, 2022 with the full response due by Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Staff profile: Megan LeFaivre

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing and Communications

When the idea that became Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) was just starting to spark in Guilford County, Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre was there.

Photo of Megan LeFaivre“I served as a volunteer on the very first steering committee, through the Early Literacy Design Team, and the 100-day challenge,” LeFaivre said. “At the time, I was the community vice president of the Junior League, and it made sense to join the committee. Then I just fell in love with the work and kept showing up.”

LeFaivre spent many years volunteering on Ready Ready committees and participating in workgroups. “When the Literacy Coordinator position became available in 2021, I knew it would be my dream job.” As Literacy Coordinator, she uses her background as a kindergarten through fifth-grade reading specialist to encourage parents and caregivers in the community to use The Basics Guilford.

“As a teacher, I saw how hard children needed to fight to catch up if they came to kindergarten unprepared,” LeFaivre said. “Using this social moment to change that problem is crucial to our community’s success.”

LeFaivre has trained hundreds of interested people and organizations in the Basics, five powerful science-based concepts anyone can use to foster children’s healthy development – starting with infants.

“When we consider that 80 percent of a child’s brain develops before age three, it’s important to have these intentional conversations with children,” LeFaivre said. “It’s not just the child in your house. It’s the children you interact with daily in your neighborhood, a co-worker’s child, or another family member. In any conversation you have with a child you can do these five easy, basic things to help their brains develop.”

When she’s not teaching the Basics, distributing books through community partners, or helping to establish Basics-themed areas for parents in the community, you’re likely to find a book in LeFaivre’s hands or headphones. “I’m especially interested in historical fiction, mainly World War I and II-era stories.”

LeFaivre also enjoys cooking — all kinds of dishes. “That’s partly because the person who cooks doesn’t have to clean in my house,” she admits. “And that works in my favor.”

Partner Spotlight: Say Yes Guilford

Say Yes Guilford is an educational nonprofit committed to providing access to support services and scholarships designed to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career, and life.

“Our whole mission is centered around giving students access to support services and scholarships,” said President and CEO Wendy Poteat. “We’re trying to make sure Guilford County students are ready for college, a career, or life – whether they choose a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a certificate program.”

Poteat joined Say Yes in 2019, at the time when it became a local nonprofit. During her time at the organization, she deepened its reach with Guilford County Schools to offer tutoring and other supports to promote success starting in elementary school.

“While Ready for School, Ready for Life focuses on prenatal to age eight and setting kids up for success, I see our work being part of that continuum,” Poteat said. “Say Yes Guilford takes up at that transition point in third grade to help make sure they are proficient in reading and supported through middle and high school. It’s a continuum of care.”

When the pandemic hit, a new opportunity to help students arose. Say Yes Guilford began offering virtual tutoring to alleviate learning loss to students now learning remotely.

“We offer a virtual tutoring prep platform from kindergarten to eighth grade with volunteer tutors. We thought we might offer it for one semester, but as the pandemic lingered, we had families asking us to keep it going,” Poteat said. “Ready Ready and The Duke Endowment helped us with funding, so we can continue to offer this support to students.”

Poteat says close partnerships with Guilford County Schools and community organizations help Say Yes offer support to GCS’ 70,000 students. “While we may be best known for providing last-dollar scholarships, more of our work is focused on listening and asking what families in Guilford County Schools really need. That’s how we can identify gaps and offer services that families say they want.”

Say Yes is using that information to develop its new strategies. One Poteat is particularly excited about is bringing career technical education (CTE) exposure to students starting in middle school. “We want sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to know more about the career academies and the amazing CTE opportunities available so they can plan better for their high school registration in eighth grade.”

When it comes to high school, Poteat says her staff is focused on equipping students to follow their best path and eliminating finance as a barrier. Say Yes offers a variety of coaching for students, such as one on one consultations that explore career or college options, SAT/ACT prep classes, individual scholarship counseling, or financial aid workshops, to name a few.

In addition to her work at Say Yes Guilford, Poteat has served on Ready Ready’s Ages 3-5 Active Reading strategy team. “It’s a tenet of servant leadership when you think about helping the community or helping people. That’s what I love about Ready Ready and being involved with this strategy team,” she said. “There are so many voices in the room and communities being heard. We must work through these ideas to engage active reading through different experiences and connections.”

We work with more than 100 community organizations. You can see the extensive list on our website. If you’re one of our partners and would like to be featured, please contact Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications.

Partner Spotlight: High Point Public Library

The mission of the High Point Public Library is nurturing the joy of reading, sharing the power of knowledge, strengthening the sense of community, and enhancing cultural and economic vitality. It’s a mission that Children’s Services Manager Jim Zola takes to heart.

“We’re very focused on outreach through our bookmobile and other programs,” Zola said. “We’re very involved with voting and early literacy, for example. We’re also working with the schools through our KinderCard program. We want every kindergartener in High Point schools to have a library card.”

The pandemic has naturally affected this outreach. “I do storytimes for one and two-year-olds and miss those in-person events,” Zola said. “We’ve done virtual and recorded storytimes on Facebook, but I miss the interaction with the children and their parents and caregivers. When the weather’s nice, we’ve taken our programs outdoors, so we’ve been able to keep it going. Our take-home kits have been another way to connect with families.”

The library’s bookmobile has been an essential part of this outreach. “Our bookmobile goes to home child care centers in the mornings to bring books and share storytimes,” he said. “In the afternoons, the bookmobile goes out into the community, where we partner with Growdega mobile pantry to visit neighborhoods that have low incomes, transportation needs, and food insecurity. Our bookmobile not only provides resources they need, in book and program form, but it’s also a wi-fi hotspot neighbors can access while we’re there.”

Zola has been looking forward to February when the High Point Library plans to resume in-person programming. The programs will require registration so group sizes can be observed. The library will hold yoga for kids and programs around Valentine’s Day and Black History Month this month.

Partnering with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and Reach Out and Read, Zola and the library staff are working on a program that would connect with local hospitals to provide books for parents of newborns. “We want them to have a little backpack with board books and information about early literacy, including The Basics Guilford, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and Reach Out and Read. We hope to encourage them to come to the library with their little ones.”

Zola points out that library programs extend beyond providing books on shelves inside a building. “We’re really concerned about health and do programs about nutrition for children and adults. We’re concerned about the homeless population – we serve breakfast in the library one morning each week so we can keep in touch and find out how we can help with needs like coats during the winter, for example.”

The library offers programs on finance and a business center to support High Point residents. “As a community, we won’t survive without unity,” Zola said. “We’re trying to help in all different ways, not just asking people to come in and check out books.”

We work with more than 100 community organizations. You can see the extensive list on our website. If you’re one of our partners and would like to be featured, please contact Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications.

Partner Spotlight: Parents as Teachers Guilford County

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Parents as Teachers Guilford County (PATGC) believes all parents can be empowered to interact with their children in a way that encourages healthy well-rounded development, while enjoying their parenting journey.

“We work with families who are expecting children or have children up through their child’s entry into kindergarten or turn age six,” said Patti Learman, director of Parents as Teachers Guilford County. “Our work is built around the relationship that develops between the parent educator and the family. It’s a partnership for the parenting journey – these relationships are the ‘secret sauce’ that really make a difference.”

Learman explains that Parents as Teachers has four components to its program. Personal visits offer one-on-one time with a parent educator who shares child development information and activities. Regular screenings help parents make sure their child or children are healthy, safe, and developing on track. Group connections provide opportunities for families to share experiences, discuss challenges, and learn with other parents, and community resources are matched with families by parent educators to address parents’ concerns and needs.

From startup conversations to participating in the first cohort of the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Parents as Teachers has been collaborating with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) for years.

“During the CQI process, we focused on bringing parent voice to our board,” Learman said. “We also did a lot of trauma-informed work with our parent educators so they understand how many families have experienced trauma and how we can best interact with them. Now it’s part of our policies and procedures and part of our regular work.”

Generally, the organization works with 60-75 families each year. The COVID-19 pandemic did affect the numbers slightly, but Learman and her team were delighted that switching to virtual visits was welcomed by their families. “We actually saw an increase in our visit numbers because families were so anxious for interaction,” she said. “We also gave tablets with a wi-fi hotspot to more than a dozen families who didn’t have internet access, thanks to funding provided through Smart Start.”

Like Ready Ready, Parents as Teachers supports school readiness for Guilford County children. Helping children arrive at school with the knowledge, skills, and physical and emotional health needed is one of the focus areas for the organization. Creating strong families is another – recognizing that each family member’s experiences or actions affect the whole unit.

“Family well-being is one of our focus areas,” Learman said. “So, if a parent needs a GED or employment or housing, we’ll get them connected with those resources. At the same time, we help parents understand their child’s stages of development and how they can best nurture them. We also believe strongly in helping parents connect with other families to build a support network and social outlets – when they realize their two-year-old isn’t the only one acting a certain way, they can normalize the parenting struggles and share in the triumphs together. All these areas work together in a complete system.”

N.C. invests in early childhood development

For immediate release
Media contact: Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications stephanies@getreadyguilford.org or 336.579.2977 ext. 2015

N.C. budget includes funding for Ready for School, Ready for Life

(November 22, 2021 — GREENSBORO, N.C.) The newly-signed North Carolina budget includes $1.2 million in funding for Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and its mission to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families.

“Every child deserves a great start,” said Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart. “North Carolina’s investment in early childhood development is critical and we welcome the General Assembly’s confidence in Ready Ready. When we support children’s earliest years, infants grow into healthy, confident, and empathetic kids who are ready for school and life. That makes our communities, workforce, and economy stronger too.”

The science is clear that prenatal to age three is critical for lifelong health and development. That’s when a million new neural connections form in the brain every second. The social, emotional, physical, and cognitive capacities built in the first three years are important for success in school, the workplace, and the larger community. Early support prepares children for kindergarten and success in school by third grade – the best predictor of high school graduation and lifelong learning.

“Investing in early childhood shows the greatest returns in a community,” said Ryan Blackledge, chair of Ready Ready’s Legislative Action Subcommittee. This group worked with the High Point and Greensboro Chambers of Commerce to educate N.C. General Assembly members about the need for early childhood development in Guilford County. “Working with the Chambers of Commerce and our Guilford County delegation to educate other lawmakers on this legislation was so rewarding. The legislature’s support for Ready Ready’s mission to create population-level change will make a difference in thousands of children’s lives.”

As a backbone organization, Ready Ready works with proven programs and community partners to ensure Guilford County families get the resources and support they need for healthy child development. Starting prenatally, dedicated family advocates that we call Navigators, meet with families to understand their strengths, needs, and goals. Then we work together to make secure connections to services, resources, or support, eliminating gaps and providing a seamless experience for families.

About Ready for School, Ready for Life
Ready for School, Ready for Life is a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our focus is ensuring all children in Guilford County and their families get the resources they need for healthy development. We want every child born in Guilford County from 2021 and beyond to enter kindergarten developmentally on track. Learn more about our work and mission at www.getreadyguilford.org.

Partner Spotlight: Housing Authority of the City of High Point

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

The mission of the Housing Authority of the City of High Point (HPHA) is to provide affordable housing to low-income to moderate-income families. What you may not know is that the organization also offers housing counseling services to the public. These services include financial budgeting, preparing for a home purchase, and financial literacy. HPHA also offers post-purchase education for home buyers, and courses in credit counseling, rental education, and more.

It’s a mission CEO Angela McGill takes to heart.

“I grew up in public housing in High Point in what was formerly Clara Cox Homes,” McGill said. “In one of the units, we had a Head Start program which I participated in. I believe the early education Head Start provides sets a foundation for academic growth.”

McGill left High Point for a stint in the U.S. Army before earning her B.S. and MBA degrees from High Point University. She began her career with HPHA in 2003, and in 2010 became the first female to head the agency since its formation in 1940.

“There’s nothing more exciting than being able to go back to the community which impacted you the most,” McGill said. “Living in public housing can come with stereotyping and stigmas. It’s incredibly important to have the academic resources to set the foundation for children. Having resources for parents gives them tools to better understand child development and the knowledge on how to encourage their children to thrive. That’s why our partnership with Ready for School, Ready for Life has been so beneficial.”

The HPHA and Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) have teamed up to provide early childhood resources to HPHA’s Public Housing community members by way of the Interactive Learning Center located at the J.C. Morgan Community Center. Two rooms have been transformed for families with young children themed around The Basics Guilford.

One of the rooms is for families with children ages 0-3 with soft play mats, age-appropriate toys, and beanbag chairs. The second is designed for families with children ages 3-5 and offers comfortable children’s furniture, books, and fun manipulatives.

“Creating an environment to help families with young children is critical to their emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. It supports our mission and Ready Ready has been a dynamic partner.”

HPHA and Ready Ready are working together to connect with local organizations to provide programming on child development, literacy, parenting, and more. HPHA’s families will be able to sign up for these learning opportunities through the HPHA’s Resident Services Department.

New resource for High Point families with young children

Ready for School, Ready for Life and the Housing Authority of the City of High Point open
a new interactive learning center.

(October 20, 2021 — GREENSBORO, N.C.) Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of High Point (HPHA) to provide early childhood development resources to its residents. The Interactive Learning Center located at J.C. Morgan Community Center will open on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m.

The Interactive Learning Center within the HPHA’s J.C. Morgan public housing community offers information on The Basics Guilford, five fun, free, science-based concepts that parents and caregivers can use to help their child’s healthy development.

“Working with the HPHA, we have transformed two rooms for families with young children themed around The Basics Guilford,” said Megan LeFaivre, Ready Ready’s literacy coordinator. “One of the rooms is for families with children ages 0-3, with soft play mats, age-appropriate toys, and beanbag chairs. The second is designed for families with children ages 3-5 and offers comfortable children’s furniture, books, and fun manipulatives.

Both rooms have meeting space for educational programs. Local organizations will provide programming on child development, literacy, parenting, and more. Families will be able to sign up for these learning opportunities through the HPHA’s Resident Services Department.

“We are excited to open the Interactive Learning Center to families at J.C. Morgan Courts,” said Angela McGill, HPHA’s CEO. “Creating an environment to help families with young children is critical to their emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. It supports our mission and Ready Ready has been a dynamic partner!”

“We are thankful for the partnership with Ready Ready and their assistance with creating a designated area for families to be able to interact with their children. The future is bright, and this learning center will be an early aid in our youth’s development,” said Charity Bunting, HPHA’s board chair.

Want to go?

What:               HPHA’s Interactive Learning Center ribbon-cutting
Where:             J.C. Morgan Community Center
501 Anaheim Street, High Point, N.C., 27260

Date:                Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Time:               1:00 p.m.

The media is invited to attend the ribbon-cutting and tour the new center.

Partner Spotlight: Every Baby Guilford

“Our mission is to ignite and mobilize Guilford County through partnerships and unified strategies to eliminate racial disparities and prevent infant deaths,” said Jean Workman, executive director of Every Baby Guilford.

The infant mortality rate in Guilford County is one of the highest in North Carolina. Of the 6,045 babies born in Guilford County in 2019, 56 did not make it to their first birthday.

Every Baby Guilford is a 30-year public-private partnership with the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services. As part of its 30th anniversary, the organization – formerly the Coalition on Infant Mortality – launched with a new name and a five-year strategic plan.

“When we started this organization in 1991, the disparity gap or the black infant mortality rate was 14.6 per 1,000 births. Today, our most recent 2019 stats show the same figure,” Workman said. “The Black infant mortality rate hasn’t changed substantially in 30 years.”

Workman points out that the organization historically created programs that focused on changing a pregnant person’s health and behavior, such as blood pressure monitoring, nutrition, and access to prenatal care. But the data shows that the Black infant mortality rate hasn’t dropped. A new approach was needed.

“We are still focused on mothers, but now we want to change the systems they encounter, particularly for Black moms,” Workman said. “In many respects, we are aligned so closely with Ready for School, Ready for Life. Together we are working on population-level change.”

Inspired by Ready Ready’s system-building approach, the Every Baby Guilford team, along with community members, health care professionals, policymakers, faith-based organizations, and partner organizations, worked together to relaunch with a collective action framework. The goal is to bring mortality rates down by 50 percent over the next five years.

“We want to eliminate systemic racism that exists in our medical practices through implicit bias, ensure safe and well-equipped areas for exercise, and address food insecurity for families. All these are a system change approach,” Workman said. “Eliminating structural racism will make the system more approachable, more resourceful, and more accessible.”

Every Baby Guilford names four key injustices that have negatively impacted Black mothers and young children through structural or institutional racism. They are unequal access to resources, housing discrimination, breastfeeding, and mistrust of health care institutions.

According to its website, the organization believes that understanding past events will allow Guilford County to better understand the cause of infant disparities and identify solutions that move towards an equitable future.

“We must change the policies, practices, and procedures that occur within the system so that families can more easily navigate those resources,” Workman said. “Having willing partners at the table ready to take part will help us make this transformation.”

Workman kicks off the strategy with a storytelling project she calls “Giving Voice to Mothers.” She said collecting the maternal health narratives, particularly of women of color in our community, will paint the picture of what’s needed in Guilford County for improvement and change.

We are ready to address systemic inequities in Guilford County

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has outlined our equity statement. The creation of this statement was the work of our Equity Strategies Committee of the Board of Directors. They sought the input of many stakeholders, including our parent leaders, staff, equity consultants, and the Board. We have posted this statement as approved by our Board of Directors on our website. Please read our statement below and join us in this important system-building work.

Equity statement
Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) promotes equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion, which are woven through our mission, values, and principles. We stand against racism in all of its forms. Ready Ready will work with our community to address the structural inequities that drive disparate child and family outcomes and work towards an environment where equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion are core values. When we are working to address these structural inequities, Ready Ready will be bold in our actions.

When Guilford County Black and Indigenous children and families of color (BIPOC) feel welcomed, heard, respected, safe, supported, and valued, all of our community and our society benefit.