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.”
Natalie Fellows | Marketing and Communications Director
Natalie Fellows joined First3Years in March of 2017, bringing more than eight years of experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors developing, implementing, and executing programs. Through her experience in program management, Natalie has specialized in managing all aspects of marketing, public and media relations, community outreach, brand effectiveness, and advertising. As Marketing and Communications Director, Natalie’s primary focus is to develop strategies to help increase statewide awareness to advance the organization’s mission. Natalie received her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Louisiana State University. Natalie brings vibrant energy and a creative outlook to the team. When asked what drives her, Natalie responded that “my daughter, Norah, motivates me every day to be the greatest version of myself and to always color outside of the lines.”
Christy Serrano | Houston Regional Director
Christy Serrano is the Regional Director of First3Years in Houston, TX. Prior to joining First3Years, Christy worked in child abuse prevention programming, early childhood policy and education philanthropy. Christy also has experience working with teens with disabilities on developing job readiness skills. Christy has demonstrated her leadership ability in positions with various advisory boards, committees and mentorship roles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Northwestern University and a Master of Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. Christy grew up in Fort Bend County and now lives in Harris County with her husband Matt and three adorable pets.
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.”
Matthew Willoughby, IMH-E | Safe Babies 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)
Jessica Torres | Safe Babies Coordinator
Jessica joins First3Years with over six years of experience in home visiting where she offered parent education to at-risk youth. She has a special interest in infant mental health and social-emotional development. Jessica also understands the two-generational model and the impact the community can make on a child’s well-being. She has worked with families facing homelessness and provided case management as well as connection to community resources. Jessica also has experience working in childcare through the Family Place. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development from Texas Woman’s University. She believes strongly in small acts of kindness and is excited to continue supporting families in North Texas.
Tasha Muhammad McDonald, IMH-E (II), LPC, RPT | Professional Development Coordinator
Tasha joined First3Years in May 2018. She has worked with children and families for over 20 years through various capacities, including owning and operating a home-based daycare. In 2007, Tasha and her family relocated to Texas, where she attended the University of North Texas to receive her MEd in Community Counseling, with a specialization in Play Therapy. She completed her practicum and internship at Nexus Recovery Center’s Child Development Center, providing therapy for children and parenting education for the female residents. Before joining our team, Tasha served as an Infant Mental Health Specialist with MHMR Tarrant County, where she provided developmental assessments, practical routine based strategies and psychoeducation for parents with children with developmental delays.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist, Tasha’s expertise has been sought out to facilitate trainings that focus on subjects such as the impact of trauma on the brain, managing maladaptive behaviors, and building healthy relationships for organizations across the DFW area including Child Care Associates and previously by our very own First3Years. She is proficient in Child Parent Relationship Therapy, Theraplay and other restorative models used to enhance attachment, build strong families and emotionally healthy children and adults. Tasha believes that “establishing a strong connection is one of the most important keys used to build happy and healthy relationships.”
Brinkley Castro | Executive Assistant
Brinkley is from Plano, Texas and is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She has over 10 years of experience working with children and 4 years of non-profit history. Brinkley has a passion for working with children, and more specifically children with special needs. Her most recent position before coming to First3Years was working at a private preschool as an assistant teacher in a 2-year old classroom.
Brinkley “strongly believes in the idea that all children should have access to the same opportunities and that caregivers play a huge role in providing those opportunities.”
Lexi Shepherd | Administrative Assistant
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.
Kimberly Morris | Intern
Kimberly is currently enrolled in the Public Health Master’s program at University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in Fort Worth TX, concentrating in Maternal and Childhood Health. She graduated from Texas Tech University this past May with a duel degree in Psychology and Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Public Health. While there she was a research assistant for Caprock FMRI Lab, and did research with Dr. Tyler Davis on decision making, including value based judgments and category learning. Kimberly is interested in advocating for, and educating on children’s development, including it’s future impact on life course.