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.”