Pritzker Children’s Initiative Awards Ready, Ready $500,000 for Early Childhood Care






January 8, 2024

Foundation’s ‘Guilford County Community Systems Grant’ Will Shine Spotlight on Local System of Care

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Pritzker Children’s Initiative awarded Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) $500,000 to spotlight the early childhood system of care in Guilford County, the organizations announced today. 

“This investment from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative will allow us to expand our data-driven approach to building an integrated system of early childhood care, beginning prenatally, in Guilford County and share what we’re learning with other communities in North Carolina and beyond,” said Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart. “The science is clear that prenatal to age three is a critical time for establishing lifelong health and development, making Ready Ready’s work, and the Pritzker Children’s Initiative’s grant, such a vital part of preparing our communities for a healthy and prosperous future,” Hart added.

The mission of Ready Ready is to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. 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 meet with families to understand their strengths, needs, and goals. Then, the advocates facilitate connections to services, resources, or support for families, eliminating gaps and providing a seamless care experience.

Because humans form a disproportionately high percentage of neural connections by age three, 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.

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

Ready Ready Invests $250,000 in Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)  to Strengthen Guilford County’s Early Childhood Support System

The grants empower local organizations to enhance services for families and children

(Greensboro, N.C., October 3, 2023) — Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) is pleased to announce a substantial investment of $250,000 in grants to five distinguished programs across Guilford County, awarding each $50,000. These grants, part of Ready Ready’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) initiative, underscore the community’s unwavering commitment to nurturing and supporting families with young children. These selected organizations and their programs will play a central role, under Ready Ready’s guidance, in strengthening and enhancing the Ready Ready continuum of early childhood support services.

The five selected organizations and their programs were chosen for the vital services they provide to Guilford County families. They are:

·       D-UP, Inc. — Well Centered ME

·       FaithAction International House — Immigrant Assistance Center

·       Reading Connections — Family Literacy Program

·       YMCA of Greensboro (Bryan YMCA, Hayes-Taylor YMCA, Spears YMCA, and Ragsdale YMCA) — Summer Day Camp

·       YMCA of High Point (Carl Chavis YMCA) — Child Care Center

Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart emphasized how this investment transcends the boundaries of individual programs, stating, “As a backbone organization, we are proud to assist Guilford County organizations via our CQI program. Together, we foster collaboration among programs, uniting them in their mission to support families. By sharing insights, best practices, and innovative solutions, these organizations become more robust, resilient, and better equipped to navigate the ever-evolving challenges families face.”

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) is a team-based process that involves continuously collecting, analyzing, and using data to enhance service quality. It uses the Model for Improvement to provide a structured framework for experiential learning and improvement within organizations.

CQI cohort programs provide services that help pregnant individuals or families with very young children thrive by addressing children’s developmental, emotional, or behavioral needs, concrete family needs, and emphasizing the most referred or demanded services based on available information. Programs accepted into the Ready Ready CQI cohort demonstrate a commitment to building on family strengths and working with parents and caregivers as experts.

The grants provide unrestricted funding, allowing organizations to enhance program staffing, acquire necessary supplies, bolster family resources, develop effective marketing materials, and leverage cutting-edge technology. These programs can serve families more effectively and efficiently by fortifying these essential components.

“Ready Ready is committed to rigorously measuring the impact of this initiative,” said Kelli Crawford, Ready Ready CQI Manager. “Through comprehensive data collection, including pre-and post-assessments, monthly assignments, and final reports, we ensure that this investment yields tangible, real-world improvements for families across Guilford County.”

To date, 28 programs have completed Ready Ready’s CQI training as part of two earlier cohorts. Ready Ready’s CQI Cohort III program will commence in October 2023 and conclude in April 2024.

Media Contact: Stephanie Skordas,

Ready for School, Ready for Life gathers community leaders to champion early childhood development

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) will bring together community leaders, visionaries, and influencers for its Ready for Success annual gathering on October 25, 2023, at Koury Convention Center from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

This annual breakfast event is not just a gathering; it’s a celebration of collaboration, innovation, and community strength. Guilford County’s brightest minds will converge to embark on a shared journey, focusing on empowering families and nurturing the future of the youngest generation. We invite our community partners and Guilford County leaders to register here.

Event Highlights:

  • Groundbreaking Initiatives: Attendees will delve into pioneering prenatal-age three initiatives driving transformative change at a population level.
  • Early Childhood Development: The event will emphasize the critical importance of early childhood development, ensuring every family has equitable access to the resources needed for success.
  • Keynote Speaker: Ron Ferguson: Distinguished guest speaker Ron Ferguson, Founder and President of The Basics, will share research and insights from the Basics Insights texting service.

The backbone organization, Ready Ready, unites over 100 community partners with vision, strategy, support, and coordination to nurture healthy child development, kindergarten readiness, and third-grade school success.

Early childhood development is not just important; it’s paramount. The experiences and opportunities children have in their early years shape the trajectory of their entire lives. By investing in early childhood development, we are investing in a brighter, more equitable future for our community.

Thanks to sponsorship from The Cemala Foundation, The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, Truist, and UNC-Greensboro, community partners may attend the event at no cost. Ready Ready is grateful for this support of our event.

Katina Allen elected to national steering committee

Ready Ready is excited to announce that Katina Allen, a dedicated member of Ready Ready’s Board of Directors and the Guilford Parent Leader Network (GPLN) has been elected to serve on the national Parent Leader Network steering committee. This marks a significant achievement as Katina will represent Guilford County on the national stage alongside 25 leaders from the Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC), including the GPLN.Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart expressed her enthusiasm, saying, “We are delighted to have Katina Allen representing Guilford County nationally. Her commitment to our mission is truly inspiring.”

In her own words, Katina shared her eagerness, saying, “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to listen and learn from people on a national scale. I’m ready to work and learn as much as I can, bringing it back to  share with my GPLN family.”

National steering committee members are elected to represent parents in their communities for one year. They serve as the decision-making body of the Parent Leader Network, leading strategies and advocating for the Parent Manifesto locally and nationally.

Fueling minds and bodies: The Power of Produce

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Communications

High Point children enrolled in the Power of Produce (PoP) club come running when the High Point Public Library bookmobile rolls up to their neighborhood. Each time they visit, they get an activity and tokens to spend at the Growing High Point “Growdega.” Thanks to a generous donation from the High Point Community Foundation, they also receive a book to add to their home libraries courtesy of Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and The Basics Guilford.

“We’ve donated 600 books to this initiative, and paired the book themes to fruits, vegetables, and healthy eating,” said Ready Ready Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre. “We’re excited to help the library and the Growdega to educate children about how they can use great fruits and vegetables to help their bodies grow stronger.”

The High Point Public Library introduced the free children’s program in the summer of 2020 and has made it a year-round event. The bookmobile visits five locations every other week, Tuesday through Friday to share information about upcoming events and the library, books, and activities. Children in the program receive three tokens each visit, which they can use to purchase fresh, organic produce.

“We take vacant lots in the city of High Point and turn them into farms,” said Amanda Mitchell, Growing High Point’s food hub manager. “We team up with the bookmobile so children can purchase fruits and vegetables. We get a lot of questions. Sometimes people ask how do I cook the zucchini or what’s the difference between a turnip and a beet. So we educate children about recipes and what they can do with different items.”

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At Laurelwood Apartments, where we caught up with the bookmobile and Growdega, micro greens and ginger were the items that caught much of the children’s interest.

“The kids really like the theme of fruits and vegetables and connecting them with the books Ready Ready provided and the produce they can buy with their tokens,” said High Point Library Outreach Manager Karen Idol. “We have a pretty consistent turnout from our club members and we can always sign up new ones.”

PoP Club was created by the Oregon City, Oregon farmer’s market in 2011 and has spread to farmer’s markets across the nation.

Ready for School, Ready for Life awards funding for Guilford County doula program

(Greensboro, N.C., July 17, 2023) – In Guilford County, 45 out of 5,927 babies born in 2020 did not survive their first year. Shockingly, Black infants accounted for 60 percent of these deaths, revealing significant racial disparities. Guilford County’s infant mortality rate is nearly 10 percent higher than the state average and 34 percent higher than the national average.

To address these concerning statistics, Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has awarded Every Baby Guilford nearly $38,000 to establish a countywide doula program. The grant will enable Every Baby Guilford to provide trained doula care to expectant parents, aiming to reduce the high infant mortality rates in Guilford County.

Charrise Hart, CEO of Ready Ready, expressed enthusiasm for the countywide initiative, stating, “Ready Ready collaborates with and supports community partners to create a comprehensive system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. We are proud to support Every Baby Guilford’s goal of reducing infant mortality disparities by 50 percent within the next three years. Funding the countywide doula program, which focuses on promoting healthy minority pregnancies and births, plays a critical role in achieving this objective.”

Every Baby Guilford will hire a doula coordinator and contract with five doulas who have received evidence-based training and certification. Together, they will provide prenatal, birthing, and postpartum support to 60 expectant families. Additionally, the doulas will collaborate with the YWCAs in Greensboro and High Point to offer support to pregnant individuals of color participating in home-visiting programs.

“We are grateful for Ready Ready’s financial support,” said Every Baby Guilford Executive Director Jean Workman. “This funding will enhance our countywide doula program, ensuring sustainable support for mothers and birthing individuals, regardless of their ability to pay. Additionally, the funds will facilitate the establishment of a learning collaborative, offering doulas valuable education and business support through mentorship.”

“Every child deserves a great start in life, but not every child starts from the same place,” added Hart. “By supporting children from the prenatal stage to age 8 through partnerships like Every Baby Guilford, we aim to provide Guilford County families with the necessary resources, information, and support to thrive, prepare for kindergarten, and achieve success in school by the third grade.”

Media Contact: Stephanie Skordas,

Fathers Ready to Camp

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Communications

“Campers have s’more fun,” they say, and a group of Guilford Parent Leader Network (GPLN) families spent a night under the stars at Oak Hollow Park Campground in High Point, N.C. on June 24, 2023. It was the first Fathers Ready to Grow campout.

Fathers Ready to Grow is led by GPLN members Harrison Spencer and Eugene Penn. It is a group for fathers of children ages 0-8, who meet monthly to network and support each other. “We looked forward to the in-person contact as opposed to the virtual. The fathers in the group expressed their interest, plus being outdoors in nature is a love of mine,” Spencer said.

The group of about two dozen pitched their tents and set up camp with a scenic view of Oak Hollow Lake. Children and parents explored the lakeside and played games. After a week of rain, the weather held for the campers.

“This was the best trip ever! I enjoyed being able to go camping for the first time alongside other parents in the community. The fellowship, teamwork, food, and memories created will last a lifetime,” said Airreia Pierce, a GPLN Steering Committee member. “My husband was able to participate and connect with other fathers. [It was a] beautiful event that should continue to grow in the future with more families.”

Another highlight of the night was a movie under the stars. One of the campers brought an inflatable screen and projector so the families could settle in before bedtime.

“I really enjoyed Father’s Ready to Grow first camping trip,” said Melissa Little, a GPLN member. “The location was perfect. The fathers, Mr. Geno and Mr. Jamaal, handled everything. I didn’t have to lift a finger except to eat. I’m anticipating next year.”

Little says the fathers who arranged the camping trip ensured families were comfortable, their tents were properly set up and handled the other arrangements for a wonderful time together.

“This speaks volumes to others around who were watching, which shows that there is truly strength in numbers and that fathers are still involved with their families,” Pierce said. “It was powerful that we were able to come together and join in on something positive for our families.”

“We talked, laughed, and engaged that night together,” Spencer said. “It was a great event, and we hope to do it again soon.”

If you’d like more information about Fathers Ready to Grow or the Guilford Parent Leader Network, please contact Family Engagement Manager Yuri Alston.


William Julius Wilson Institute visits Ready Ready

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Communications

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) hosted members of the William Julius Wilson Institute (WJWI) at Harlem Children’s Zone and The Duke Endowment to explore the system of care we are building in Guilford County on May 23, 2023.

“When WJWI expressed interest in coming for a visit, we asked them – how much time do you have?” said Charrise Hart, Ready Ready’s chief executive officer. “Our work collaborates with so many partners in Guilford County that it was a challenge to fit a snapshot into just one day.”

Nationally recognized innovator in education and place-based work, Geoffrey Canada is the president of Harlem Children’s Zone and founder of WJWI. He and six WJWI staff members asked Ready Ready to share the place-based system-building work being done in Guilford County.

“We have seen just extraordinary early childhood work with the folks at Ready Ready,” Canada said. “We think there’s a lot of promise here to demonstrate to the rest of the country what it really means to come together for the most disadvantaged children and make sure they’re successful.”

  • Hart kicked off the day-long visit with an overview of Ready Ready’s position as a backbone organization and our mission to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families.
  • Vice President of Strategic Impact Jaqueline McCracken explained how Ready Ready has focused on coordinated care, developing an Integrated Data System for use within the Routes to Ready navigation system to connect families with children to effective programs and services – and identify gaps.
  • Vice President of Public Will Building Heather Adams focused on Ready Ready’s equity work, commitment to family voice, and targeted neighborhood strategy to improve child and family outcomes in Guilford County’s highest need areas.

With partnership from Children & Families First, the WJWI visitors explored a drop-in child care center for children whose parents take classes in budgeting, job training, and more at the facility’s Family Success Center. The tour included Early Head Start and N.C. Pre-K classrooms where a graduate of the Child Development Associate (CDA) program explained how she was inspired to earn her CDA credential to create her career path as an early childhood educator.

Children & Families First CEO Maria Layne-Stevens shared her organization’s mission to help low-income, underemployed adults to earn a livable wage and receive the training and education needed to become fully proficient early child care providers. A second cohort has begun their training.

At a lunchtime keynote and fireside chat with Hart, Canada shared lessons learned from decades of work with Harlem Children’s Zone and how WJWI is working to help other place-based organizations like Ready Ready access the supports they need to be successful.

A visit to Hope Academy GSO in collaboration with shift_ed allowed Ready Ready to share how we are working with the community to build a cradle-to-career network. Shift_ed President and CEO Wendy Poteat shared her organization’s work to support students and graduates at every level of the education continuum.

The WJWI visitors said they were encouraged and inspired by their visit to Guilford County.

“One of the reasons I’m really excited is that when we travel around the country, not a lot of people have figured out how essential it is to start working with families at conception and staying with them – particularly those first three or four years. The science on this is clear; it is irrefutable,” Canada said. “If we never let kids get behind, it is so much easier in pre-K, kindergarten, and elementary school for our kids to stay on grade level. So [Ready Ready is] starting early here, and it is a program of national significance.”

Partner Spotlight: YWCA Emergency Family Shelter

The YWCA Greensboro Emergency Family Shelter offers housing, food, case management, and support for families experiencing homelessness.

“We house men and women with children,” said Tiffany Dumas, the family shelter director. “Families can stay here 30, 60, or 90 days. Each family’s progress looks a little bit different, but the ultimate goal is to help them transition into permanent supportive housing.”

The shelter can house up to seven families or 20-30 individuals. Families may need help with child care, mental health, or other needs, so Dumas says the shelter works closely with other agencies and organizations to support them.

Twice-monthly community meetings with families and shelter family advocate staff keep the lines of communication open. “It’s a place where families have a voice,” Dumas said. “It’s a place where we can talk together about programs, activities, needs, and resources.” 

Dumas credited Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and its Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) training with helping shelter staff view their program through a new lens. The organization was part of Ready Ready’s second CQI cohort that wrapped up its nine-month sessions in March 2023. “It was so informative to hear from other agencies as we went through the CQI modules,” she said.

 Dumas describes an “aha” moment around how CQI could help the shelter measure client satisfaction on issues from cleanliness to programming to family resources. “It’s all about improvement. It’s all about expectations,” she said. “Our staff understands that survey answers aren’t punitive, and families understand that their honest answers aren’t a barrier to their stay.”

The survey asks clients to rate areas such as the cleanliness of their room at arrival, the overall experience at entry, the intake and orientation process, meals, safety, family activities, and other resources. Dumas said their answers help staff address issues, identify needs, and gain insight into ways to improve. Importantly, the survey also highlights areas of excellence. 

“I’m able to tell our CEO and board of directors where we are ranked highly and offer ideas about how we can prioritize new ideas the survey reveals,” Dumas said. “It really is imperative. I feel like every organization should do CQI.”

Ready Ready gives nearly 1,000 books to High Point pre-K students

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Communications

In partnership with Book Harvest of Durham, N.C., Ready Ready distributed nearly 1,000 books to children in pre-K classrooms in High Point. “Books on Break is a program designed to have kids choose their books,” said Rachel Stine, Book Harvest’s director of book abundance. “We know that when kids choose their own books, not only do they identify as a reader, they become more intrinsically motivated readers.”

Ready Ready’s Ages3-8 Director Coretta Walker and Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre set up rooms at Children & Families First’s Staley and Macedonia Head Start Centers with attractive groupings of books on tables – like a pool party-themed book fair. Children entered five at a time to choose the five books they wanted to take home in a personalized book bag.

“The books are culturally relevant in terms of the characters, the storylines, and the language,” Walker said. “The pre-K students were able to take home five books that they chose. They had hundreds to pick from – some early reader books, hardback, paperback – whatever they wanted to take home.”

Each child’s book bag had resources for families about kindergarten readiness and tips from The Basics Guilford.

“This is going to encourage literacy between the child and parent and boost what they’ve learned in our center so they don’t lose it over the summer,” said Donnishia Casterlow, assistant director at the Staley Center.

According to Book Harvest’s website, children growing up in homes with at least 20 books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, regardless of their parent’s education, occupation, and social-economic standing. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that parents start reading to their children at birth.

“We know that children learn best when they are exposed to books and hear more language spoken,” said Megan LeFaivre, Ready Ready’s literacy coordinator. “Having more books in the home, especially over the summer, will help them get ready for kindergarten.”