Every baby born in Guilford County, N.C. automatically joins a uniquely ambitious project: a 10-year effort to build and sustain a seamless, community-wide early childhood system of care.
Ms. Mindy Oakley
The Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation Executive Director
Dr. Harold Martin
North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor
Leaders of Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) have spent four years building the first phase of that system, designed to serve families with children prenatally to age 3. In 2022, they completed Phase 1 and began building out Phase 2 – services for children ages 3-8.
“This is a very busy time,” explained Mindy Oakley, board co-chair for Ready for School, Ready for Life, the backbone organization steering the initiative. “We’re implementing Phase 1 with babies born this year, and these babies are now part of the ‘Routes to Ready’ system of care. We’re tracking their data, evaluating and building benchmarks. At the same time, we’re planning strategies to get them kindergarten ready by the time they’re 5 years old.”
“We are delighted to see the successful completion of Phase 1,” said Jean Spaulding, chair of the ad hoc Board of Trustees committee monitoring the project for the Endowment. “Families are counting on this initiative’s promise to improve life in Guilford County, and Ready Ready and its community partners are on the path to meet the challenge.”
North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold Martin co-chairs the Ready Ready board with Oakley. He said the work required a strong running start, with initiative leaders partnering with parents, community programs and government agencies to build a system that is “of the community, for the community,” and based on universal assessments and targeted interventions.
We really felt the weight of needing to get things right. We wanted equity and family voice at the center of what we do, so we spent a lot of time listening.DR. HAROLD MARTIN | Ready Ready Co-Chair, North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor
With the future in mind, Ready Ready staff and their partners are weaving the program’s holistic goals into each child’s early school career. “We want these babies to achieve important literacy milestones by the third grade,” Martin said. “We’re looking at active reading campaigns and programs that focus on social-emotional well-being. We’re also thinking about ways to align pre-K and kindergarten systems. These are the questions we’re asking for the future.”
Ultimately, the initiative aims to stimulate population-level change and to develop a replicable model for other communities. The Endowment is providing long-term support along with Blue Meridian Partners, a national funder focused on place-based philanthropic investments.
“We’re fortunate to have a group that banded together for collective giving who were brave and visionary enough to ask, ‘How can we impact something together?’ It’s sometimes hard to get critical mass around something that seems so big,” remarked Oakley. “But our leaders and partners said, ‘We’re going for this, and we’re going to be successful.’ Together, we are building up changemakers through strategy, data, hope and trust.”
With the future in mind, Ready Ready staff and their partners are weaving the program’s holistic goals into each child’s early school career.