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.”