Staff profile: Kelli Crawford

Kelli Crawford joined Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) as Continuous Quality Improvement Manager earlier this year. Previously, Kelli served as the Director of Impact at Junior Achievement of the Triad. In that role, she built relationships with school districts, educators, and volunteers across five counties to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.

Overseeing the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program allows Crawford to connect with Guilford County programs that focus on serving families with young children.

“As someone who’s a lifelong learner and focuses on ways to grow and improve, working with these programs to help them increase their efficiency, quality, and service is a natural fit,” Crawford said.

The CQI process uses the Model for Improvement, a powerful and flexible method promoting a structured experiential learning approach. The 13 organizations in CQI Cohort II began their work in September and will finish the process in May 2023.  Their team-based work will help them collect, analyze, and use data to improve service quality.

“We’re working with three to four team members in each organization,” Crawford said. “Each month, the programs participate in learning sessions with each other and CQI facilitators from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work and Population Health Improvement Partners. The CQI members receive additional coaching between sessions and have time to complete any assignments.”

When she’s not helping local organizations create new ways to improve, Crawford says she enjoys spending time in nature and expanding her photography skills. She and her husband are avid campers and enjoy exploring North Carolina, from the mountains to the beaches.

“My husband’s family introduced me to camping, and I fell in love with it, too,” Crawford said. “During the pandemic, we bought a small camper to continue exploring and find safe ways to continue our travels.”

While camping in North Carolina allows for quick getaways, a recent trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming inspired Crawford’s photography. “I’ve used some of the photos I took there in my office to remind me of that trip,” she said. “It’s a great way to bring the outdoors indoors.”

Staff profile: Stephanie Skordas

Stephanie Skordas celebrated her second anniversary as Ready Ready’s director of marketing and communications last month. She joined our organization after more than ten years of working in higher education strategic communications in a neighboring county, and shortly after the pandemic transitioned everyone to online education, including her youngest daughter in middle school.

“I had an appreciation for the steps Guilford County Schools was taking to help make the transition after seeing how a private, liberal arts university had to pivot so quickly,” Skordas said. “That reignited my passion for early childhood education.”

A former marketing director at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, now Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum, Skordas brought some of the lessons she learned from her mother, a former preschool teacher turned mental health counselor, to her communications efforts. “She has a way of making a story come alive, and understanding what children need to succeed from the very beginning,” Skordas said, “and I saw how she made a difference in her students’ lives before they started kindergarten.”

Photo of the Skordas family in Coronado, CAWhile her work at Ready Ready runs the gamut from monthly newsletters, to website updates, social media, media relations, public will-building, and more, Skordas says she values the principles Ready Ready weaves through all its work. “The focus on being family-led, inclusive, equity-driven, responsive to evidence, transparent, and collaborative is critical to the system-building work we’re doing,” she said. “As a former journalist, I feel so strongly about how communities that are aware and informed can make amazing strides together.”

When she’s not creating written or multimedia content for Ready Ready, you can find this flamingo aficionado chaperoning for the Page High School Band, volunteering with the PTSA, or crashing on the sofa reading, watching movies, playing video games, crocheting, or scrapbooking. She and her husband have two daughters and two cats.

Staff profile: Connie Colter

Ready for School, Ready for Life Parent Liaison Connie Colter came to our organization through the Guilford Parent Leader Network (GPLN) and its Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)training.

“I empower families to make a difference within Guilford County and also offer them support,” Colter said. “I build one-on-one relationships with GPLN families and encourage other families in Guilford County to join our group. It’s so important to have a support system as a parent.”

Photo of Connie ColterThey say if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.  Colter is currently earning her degrees in special education and criminal justice while parenting five children and working at Ready Ready.  Her long-term goal is to provide quality education to juvenile delinquents by starting a school for them. She intends to get to the root of the problem instead of watching them get passed along the system.

“Once they have the label ‘juvenile delinquent’, it sticks with them for the rest of their educational life,” Colter said. “These children don’t receive the standard quality of education and this causes a greater issue. What would happen if we took the time to understand the root of why they may have lashed out or committed a crime and help them work past it?”

Colter says her interest in education and social justice comes from her mother’s 30-year career working with children who have exceptional needs. “Growing up learning not to judge people, but looking beyond what society may say about them is so important,” Colter said. “I learned to give back and treat people how you’d want to be treated if you were in their shoes.”

When she’s not studying, writing and submitting papers, parenting, or creating a support network for Guilford County Parents, Colter likes to paint, cook, and plan events. She’s an especially big fan of celebrating people’s birthdays.

Staff Profile: Heather Adams

“I’ve always had a passion for working with children. From very early in my work with children, I understood that a strong foundation sets them up for success,” VP of Public Will-Building Heather Adams said. “After my daughter was born, I shifted my drive away from the classroom and into early childhood development.”

After nearly 15 years as Executive Director of the Rockingham County Partnership for Children, Adams joined Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) as Director of Engagement and Literacy Initiatives. Her projects included areas such as family engagement with the Guilford Parent Leader Network, strategic planning for The Basics Guilford, and leading a community-wide design team for the Ages 3-5 stage of our work. She celebrated her second anniversary at Ready Ready just last month.

“Now my role is building momentum across Guilford County for the work Ready Ready is coordinating,” Adams said. “Our goal is population-level change, and it impacts the whole community. That means we must reach out to our incredibly diverse community and help them understand why we’re building a system of care for the very youngest children and their families.”

Photo of Heather AdamsReady Ready’s work focused on prenatal to age three is scaling up to full implementation. In addition, the next stage adds strategies focused on children ages 3-5 and then 5-8. “Our hope in stage two is that we’ll see a reduction in disparities, improved outcomes for children at kindergarten entry, and success in school by third grade. As we build public will and momentum, I think we’ll be a much more visible organization in the community.”

A recent empty-nester with her daughter in her second year of college, Adams enjoys making connections with the community. One key activity – running. A former marathon runner, Adams finds running to be both a work-life balance release and an effective fitness routine. “I have found a lot of community running the streets and trails of Greensboro and Guilford County. When you’re pounding the pavement with friends, there’s lots to discuss while you enjoy the scenery.”

Staff profile: Michelle Chapin

The Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) staff has grown exponentially during the pandemic. But while you’re meeting many new staff members in our newsletter, many of you may already know Project Manager: Ages Prenatal-3 Michelle Chapin.

“I started working with Ready Ready in 2017 as a contract staff member to support early literacy and our Continuous Quality Improvement work,” Chapin said. “Now I help advance our collaborative work with expansion program partners, families, and medical homes.”

Chapin said having more staff capacity has really catapulted Ready Ready into a position to tackle the extensive work that the organization has long envisioned, tested, and piloted – remaining true to our mission and vision. “Having more staff with a variety of expertise, diversity, and backgrounds has helped us better inform how we approach our work to the benefit of Guilford County families.”

Chapin particularly enjoys working with community partners to create population-level change in her role at Ready Ready. “We work with such a great wealth of experience and knowledge through our community partners,” she said. “Working alongside Guilford County families with their own lived experiences and perspectives is critical because we’re building a system of care with families that needs to work for families.”

Michelle Chapin stands with her daughter, who is seated on their horse, QOutside of her work day, Chapin enjoys running outdoors. She said the physical activity helps her with work-life balance, and enjoying the scenery is equally refreshing. “Around our neighborhood, I see deer, chipmunks, and have even seen a fox. It’s just relaxing to be out, and when you see something like that in the wild or your backyard, you just stop and are in awe of it.”

Something else she finds therapeutic? “My therapy is cleaning horse stalls. It’s both rewarding and a great workout,” she said. “My daughter’s passion is riding, and having an activity we can do together is really important to me. We are together at the barn where she rides, taking care of our horse, Q. It’s rewarding to have a project that you can see from start to finish, marking your progress and having the result of a neat and tidy space when you’re done.”

Staff profile: Mollie Blafer

Network Data and Systems Specialist Mollie Blafer planned to focus on early childhood education as a college student but found herself drawn to sociology and switching majors for her undergraduate degree. After earning her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel Administration, she settled into advising college students on their academic and career goals.

“I worked in the service learning office during grad school and loved working with the nonprofits I was connecting our students to,” Blafer said. “When I learned about Ready Ready, the opportunity felt like a great blend of all the skills I gained, my interest in early childhood education, and preparing people to put their best foot forward.”

Blafer joined Ready for School, Ready for Life as a Community Alignment Specialist in 2020 and recently saw a change as our organization grew and flourished. “I was liaising with our technology consultants to help our community and program partners integrate with our database. I found I was consulting with our programs about how the Integrated Data System can benefit them and doing more reporting and working to help build out our navigation services and strategy.”

A Class of 2022 graduate of Leadership High Point, Blafer particularly enjoyed the class project. “We made a sensory garden and built a story walk at the High Point Library to give back to the community and connect to early literacy. As someone who lives in Greensboro, the ability to learn more about High Point and meet more colleagues at other organizations was invaluable.”

Photo of Mollie and her cat MaddieBlafer adopted an orange tabby cat before the pandemic, which surprised her because she had a longstanding fear of cats after a neighbor’s kitty hissed aggressively at her when she was a child. “I wanted a pet but lived in a small studio apartment,” Blafer recalled. “So, a friend convinced me to visit a pet adoption fair. I picked up Maddie, and she let me hold her. Something about her energy clicked, and I called to adopt her the next day. And now I love all cats.”

Other hobbies include traveling, especially to visit family in New Jersey, practicing yoga, playing kickball in a rec league, and joining almost any community event. “I love being around my friends, and I really just love anything community-orient

Staff profile: Stormi Covington

Network Director Stormi Covington joined Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) in July 2019. She was familiar with Ready Ready’s mission from a previous role at Greensboro Housing Authority. “After I left the agency, I saw the position open at Ready Ready and I’ve been here ever since.”

Covington’s work at Ready Ready includes working with community partners, systems, and individuals to align services in Guilford County. She put it simply, “I’m a connector.”

Covington researches programs for connections with her godson P.J. in mind. He was born a week after she started her career at Ready Ready. “Researching programs for children ages 0-3 came naturally for me as I watched P.J. grow and develop. Now we are expanding our work for children ages 3-5 and he’s right in that sweet spot.”

The Covingtons and godson wear birthday hats
The Covingtons celebrate with their godson P.J. as an infant.

Much of Covington’s work at Ready Ready focuses on finding gaps in services and identifying solutions. She and her team have built an Agency Finder database with contact information and up to 40 data points for Ready Ready’s Integrated Data System. It will allow proven program staff members to seamlessly help families connect with the resources, information, and support they need. A version is also available to the general public by way of the Community Portal.

“My friends are surprised when I say I started with a spreadsheet,” Covington said. “My nonprofit colleagues understand that some areas of Guilford County have more resources than others, and not everyone has the same access. When it comes to navigating all these resources, it can take a lot of strategies to figure out what’s offered and what you need as a parent.”

One thing Covington recommends to all parents is The Basics Guilford. “When P.J. came along, I started talking with his parents, my friends, about The Basics. I taught them what I had learned and encouraged them to utilize them right from the start. It’s been amazing to see P.J. grow and develop.”

Staff profile: Christina Dobson

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing and Communications

“We started out as a very small team. I think I was the fourth person to join,” said Christina Dobson, Director of Data and Performance. “And now Ready Ready is nearly five times larger in terms of staff.”

The growth comes with Ready for School, Ready for Life’s ability to develop the infrastructure needed to create population-level change, according to Dobson. Before joining Ready Ready in 2017, Dobson started volunteering at the YWCA as a mentor to a pregnant teen at the same time she was pregnant with her second child.

“As I continued to volunteer and then work there for 18 years, my own children grew to be teens, and I could see at close range how my children’s experiences and opportunities were different from those of, first, the children of the young mothers I worked with, and later of the moms themselves. It provided a very clear picture of inequity and systemic racism, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work against that at the community level at Ready Ready,” she said.

four adults are smiling at the cameraIn April 2022, Dobson transitioned into her new role as Director of Data and Performance focused on one of Ready Ready’s six priorities – conduct rigorous evaluation and build sustainability for system-building work. She will support staff and community partners in readiness for the evaluation of our initiative, coordinating with The Duke Endowment and Ready Ready’s evaluation consultants.

“I’ll be assuring that our evaluation can happen in a way that is seamless for our staff and partners,” Dobson said. “I’m excited about being a liaison between our evaluation partners and various stakeholders to make sure we have access to the data that will measure outcomes and performance.”

In her spare time, Dobson enjoys reading general fiction but has a more specialized niche these days. “My husband Dave has transitioned from his 24 years as a professor at Guilford College and is now writing full time and involved in game development. I’m the first reader of all his writing. I just finished reading his sixth novel which was a thriller, and some of his other works have been science fiction and fantasy. It’s so great to be involved this way.”

Staff profile: Praneetha Deva

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing and Communications

If Ready Ready’s Salesforce Administrator Praneetha Deva were planning her vacation, she’d head straight to her hometown of Hyderabad in India with her husband and daughter. “I always have a lovely time visiting my parents and sisters,” she said.

Deva joined Ready Ready in December 2021. As a Salesforce certified platform developer and administrator, Deva has a solid background in IT, including three years of experience on Salesforce products like service cloud, marketing cloud, Apex programming, and lightning components. She also has years of experience in databases, ETL tools, Linux, Rest API’s and web services and her master’s degree in computer sciences.

She’s excited to bring these skills to Ready Ready’s system-building mission. “I feel the notion that we are all born equal also means every newborn child in the community should have all their basic needs covered for healthy development,” she said. “We all have to support our communities to make this happen.”

When she’s not helping build Ready Ready’s Integrated Data System or working with the Community Alignment team on its Agency Finder app, you’ll probably find Deva measuring sugar, flour, and more in her baking room, where she can control the temperature away from the hot oven in the kitchen.

“I started baking when I was on maternity leave with my daughter, who’s now five,” Deva said. “I love to create custom cakes for kids’ birthdays with their favorite characters and have also gone to baking school to learn more. My daughter loves baking with me too.”

In addition to custom cakes, Deva has started creating custom cookies and enjoys decorating with royal icing and buttercream. She said that her hobby allows her creativity full rein. “In IT, I use creativity to develop code, deal with a web page, or look for a different angle to find a solution,” Deva said. “When it comes to baking, it’s a different side of creativity that comes with lots of patience.”

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.”