In April 2013, Sadie joined First3Years (then the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health) as Executive Director. Since joining First3Years, Sadie has helped double the impact by increasing training, Endorsement and collaborative partnerships throughout the state. Her leadership has been critical in securing sustainable funding to increase the reach of the organization’s mission. Sadie serves on the University of Texas at Dallas – Center for Children and Families Advisory Board and the Texas Home Visiting Training Institute Stakeholders Planning Group. Sadie represents Texas on the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health’s National Planning Board. Sadie brings vast experience working in the field and advocating for change both locally and abroad. Prior to working with First3Years, Sadie developed and managed the Together We Learn program at Catholic Charities of Dallas, where she was responsible for all aspects of early childhood and parent enrichment programming. The catalyst for Sadie’s drive to give voice and action to those in society who are often overlooked, began while Sadie lived abroad in Ecuador working for the Peace Corps Sadie received a B.A. in Anthropology with Honors from Eckerd College and her M.S. in International Management from the University of Texas at Dallas. Sadie is Endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Mentor, Level IV-Policy.
Natalie Baerwaldt joined First3Years in July of 2016, bringing more than 15 years of professional experience in early childhood. In the last ten years Natalie has focused on child development with at-risk and drug endangered children. As the Director of PD, she will bring her experience and expertise to help professionalize the field of early childhood for all those working with infants, toddlers and families. Natalie is endorsed as a level IV Infant Mental Health Mentor and is licensed in the state of Texas as a Childcare Director. Natalie has a master’s degree in Counseling, Development and Higher Education from the University of North Texas where she has instructed as an adjunct professor. She is a master trainer for the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System, a certified statewide trainer for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, a certified trainer for Drug Endangered Children, and a certified statewide trainer for the Prevent Child Abuse Network.
Natalie is a dynamic speaker who focuses on the presentation topic and addresses solutions, resolutions and practical application to meet training objectives. When asked what she is looking forward to most about her role with First3Years, Natalie says, “It is a great honor to join an organization that is held in such high regard in the state of Texas. I am thrilled to join the team to help further the mission – to educate, advocate, and collaborate to advance the healthy development of infants and toddlers.”
Matthew Willoughby, Safe Babies Tarrant County Coordinator
Matthew Willoughby rejoined First3Years in April of 2017. He has a profound interest in the two-generation approach with families, which creates opportunities for and addresses the needs of both vulnerable children and their families together. He also has a special interest in paternal involvement. Matthew earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Bachelor of Science in Child Learning and Development in 2015 from University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). In addition, he obtained his Master of Science in Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders in May 2017 from UTD. Matthew brings passion and experience working with families and youth from work with the Just Beginning Program, Dallas Preschool Readiness Program, and several others. He likes the quote, “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” (J. Hull)
Isabel Tanco, Project Coordinator
Isabel joined First3Years in July 2014 and has since been thrilled to be working with such wonderful professionals to promote a great cause. She comes with a special interest in children, youth, the Hispanic community, and nonprofit work, with a BA in Spanish for International Service from The Catholic University of America to fuel her ambitions in her work with First3Years. Moreover, Isabel has gained valuable experience working with Catholic Charities of Dallas in a bilingual preschool program and supporting at-risk youth around Washington, DC with the Latin American Youth Center. Her other work experience includes Spanish tutoring for college students and teaching beginner piano to children ages 3 to 14. She has also had the privilege to participate in eye-opening volunteer work, including trips to Chile, where she worked with children with severe disabilities, and Peru, to perform direct service to families living in poverty. Isabel is endorsed as an Infant Family Associate and is excited to use all her experience and passion to promote infant and toddler mental health with First3Years.
Aaron Fields joined First3Years in September of 2016 as the coordinator of the Just Beginning Program. Aaron has a strong interest in research and policy related to issues that are vital to children and their families. In May of 2016 Aaron graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a double major in Speech Language Pathology and Child Development. He is currently in the Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders graduate program at UTD. He brings experience and passion in working with children and families from his previous work as a G-Force Mentor with the Dallas Independent School District, and as a Student Volunteer at the Center for Children and Families at UTD. Through this work Aaron is helping to shape the world’s responses to challenges and opportunities regarding children’s health, learning environments, education, safety, and financial and economic security. Aaron’s top priority is to make an unforgettable impact in the lives of children and their families all over the world, and his contributions are being noted in his work with First3Years.
Ashley joined First3Years in November 2016. Most recently, Ashley was a parent educator through Texas Home Visiting with ChildCareGroup, in Collin County. She brings with her nine years of experience working with children and families in many different capacities. She has worked as a “2-yr-old” support staff teacher in Oklahoma, worked with the McKinney ISD child care program, and as an educational specialist and child development specialist (screenings and curricula development for the school) at Nexus Recovery Center. She has also worked with children and families in inpatient child mental health care, summer camps, education, research and church.
In her role as Engagement Coordinator, Ashley is charged with engaging members, donors and partner agencies, and administering the IMH-E / Infant Mental Health Endorsement credential program for First3Years. Ashley received her BS in Psychology with a minor in Accounting from Southern Nazarene University in 2010. She also holds a Masters degree in Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas, 2013. Ashley has worked in other capacities to help develop new programs and positions, train interns, organize and execute professional development training events, and provide administrative support to non-profit organizations. Her passion for working in the early childhood field stems from her belief that all children are gifted and act as “little scientists” in their world. Thus, children deserve to discover their new world in the context of a caring, responsive and nurturing environment. Ashley believes that, “all children should have access to quality education and the opportunities to connect with loving and supporting caregivers. First3Years works tirelessly to advocate and educate on behalf of our tiniest citizens. To be a part of this team, is an honor, and I aim to continue their driving mission.”
Jerletha McDonald, HOPES Coordinator
Jerletha joined First3Years in June 2017. She comes with a special interest in the economic security and leadership development of women and girls. She also has a special interest in empowering family childcare professionals, and teenage mothers. Jerletha is a social entrepreneur, child care consultant/trainer, and public speaker. Jerletha is the proud owner of Kiddie Korner Home Learning Center. She is also the founder and executive director of the Arlington DFW Child Care Provider Association. In 2010, Jerletha interned with Camp Fire USA First Texas Council in the Work Family Division. There, she gained and developed the skills to run and conduct early childhood professional development trainings and events. Jerletha is a proud member of the National Association for the Education of the Young Child. She specializes in child care business startups, team building, and leadership development. She has 13 plus years of experience in the field of early childhood education. In April of 2016, Jerletha was recognized by the Grand Prairie NAACP as one of the Most Influential Women in Business, and has received numerous awards and reconditions for business and child care excellence. Jerletha earned a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Intervention in 2012, from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Lexi Shepherd, Intern
Lexi is a sophomore undergraduate at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a McDermott Scholar and is currently majoring in Neuroscience. Lexi is very interested in working with nonprofits, specifically those centered around helping children, and learning about nonprofit management. Some organizations that she has worked within the Dallas area include SVP Dallas, Heart House, and Equest.