As Chief Executive Officer, Sadie Funk has led the organization through significant growth and impact in achieving its mission to educate, advocate, and collaborate to advance the healthy development of infants, toddlers, and their families. Since joining First3Years, Sadie has helped to substantially increase the trajectory of the organization by growing programming, increasing Endorsement and expanding 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. Sadie has a Master of Science in International Management from the University of Texas at Dallas and is bilingual in English and Spanish. Sadie is Endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Mentor.
Ashley Borthick, MS, IMH-E (II) | Director of Strategy
As Director of Strategy, Ashley is charged with growing the impact of First3Years’ objective to build a specialized zero to three workforce, as well as leading efforts for effective operations for First3Years. With over a decade of experience in direct service to infants, toddlers, and their families, Ashley brings a unique skill set and a fresh perspective to her role. Ashley has been an integral part in developing and executing new programming for First3Years and has played a key role in expanding First3Years at an organizational level.
Ashley received her BS in Psychology with a minor in Accounting from Southern Nazarene University in 2010. She also holds a Master’s degree in Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas, 2013. 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.”
Natalie Fellows | Marketing and Communications Director
In her role as Marketing and Communication Director, Natalie’s primary focus is to develop strategies to help increase statewide awareness to advance the organization’s mission. With over a decade of experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors developing, implementing, and executing programs, Natalie has specialized in managing all aspects of marketing, public and media relations, community outreach, brand effectiveness, and advertising. Natalie received her Bachelor 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 daughters, Norah and Amelia, motivate me every day to be the greatest version of myself and to always color outside of the lines.”
Stephanie is the Safe Babies Director of First3Years and oversees Tarrant and Dallas Counties. Before joining First3Years, Stephanie worked in the child welfare system with the Dallas juvenile and family courts. Stephanie also has experience in program development for early childhood education, parent engagement, and community collaboration. Stephanie attended the University of North Texas and has been involved with various non-profits since 2012. Stephanie is bilingual, experienced in program alignment, staff management, and grass-roots outreach. Stephanie’s passion comes from the desire to help build a strong foundation for child success; she recognizes that this success stems from parent empowerment and engagement in their child’s development.
Christy Serrano | Houston Regional Director
Christy Serrano is the Regional Director of First3Years in Houston, TX. Before joining First3Years, Christy worked in child abuse prevention programming, early childhood policy, and education philanthropy. Christy also has experience working with teens with disabilities in 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.
Claudia Alexander | Accounting Manager
Claudia Alexander serves as Accounting Manager. She has worked in diverse non-profit roles in the Dallas area for over 25 years. After several years in executive positions, she accepted that her forte was in managing money rather than raising it. Since 2013, she has focused on helping small, local non-profits streamline their accounting and operations functions. In addition, Claudia is an educator, having regularly teaching Spanish and ESL for adults in higher education and corporate settings since 2001. She loves walking, hiking, and travel, especially when it involves going to another country. Of course, in 2020, just leaving Dallas county is a thrill!
Laura’s role as Community Systems Manager leads her to collaboratively develop an integrated and coordinated community system within Baytown, TX where every family has an equitable voice, is supported, and can readily access and choose from quality resources and services for their young child.
In her previous role, she served as the Senior Director of Operations for the National Diversity Council to advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion within the private, public and non-profit sectors. During her time at the Council, she also led the efforts to coordinate and execute a four-year writing program in partnership with Rice University for high school students, which resulted in granting over $40K in scholarships. She is a Leadership Houston alumna, Class XXX, where she served on the Communication Committee and was previously named one of Houston’s 100 Hispanic Women in Leadership by the Houston Chapter of Hispanic Women in Leadership. Laura is also a board member for Communities in Schools Baytown and Our Promise for West Baytown. Laura is a graduate of Lee College in Baytown, TX with an associate’s degree in business administration. As part of her mission of continuing to give back to her community, Laura currently serves as a City of Baytown Councilmember where she serves as the Secretary for the Municipal Development District and Vice President of the Architecture & Engineering Committee.
Jordan Beard | Executive Assistant
Jordan is the Executive assistant at First3Years. Prior to her current role, Jordan received her Bachelors in Political Science and Communications at Dallas Baptist University. Jordan has spent most of her life volunteering in her community between different nonprofits and after school programs. She is interested in learning and growing in the infant mental health community to not only advocate for those most vulnerable but to assist in creating a better world for our future generations to come.
Joyelle Gaines | Community Systems Coordinator
Joyelle Gaines is the Community Systems Coordinator in Houston, TX. Joyelle graduated with her Master of Social Work from Baylor University (‘20) and holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Saint Vincent College (‘18). Joyelle has focused her studies, internships, and employment experiences around child development, clinical mental health education and counseling, empowerment with women and girls, and racial diversity & equity leadership. In her previous roles as an assistant teacher, academic advisor, group counselor, researcher, and play therapist, Joyelle developed a love for working with children in many capacities. With these various experiences, Joyelle has learned a lot about the power of the systems in place in our country and how they impact vulnerable populations, like children, and especially children of color. She is happy to be in an organization and position that engulfs all of her passions in one place.
Joyelle is originally is from Newark, New Jersey and as of 2018, lives in Houston with her husband Leslie and their dog Kovu. Her favorite quote that impacts her own work ethic, as well as her work with children, is “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable is manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”- Fred Rogers (her favorite person).
Christina Henriquez | Safe Babies Coordinator – Harris County
Christina Henriquez is the Safe Babies Coordinator in Harris County. Before joining First3Years, Christina worked in child centered intervention systems for abused children, served as an advocate within the juvenile and family courts, and community-based health initiatives. Christina also has experience working with teens and women in a therapeutic setting as well as assisted in the development of a early literacy program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and is currently pursing her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Houston. Christina grew up in Alief and now lives in Katy. Christina says her biggest motivation for this work are her children.
Naomie Kadima | Relational Health Program Manager
In her role as Relational Health Program Coordinator, Naomie will support First3Years efforts to increase community providers’ understanding of early relational health using the Welch Emotional Connection Screen (WECs) to assess the relational health between parents and young children. Before joining our team, Naomie designed and implemented an Exclusive Breastfeeding Education Program for a women’s clinic in rural Haiti. She is passionate about the use of innovative, evidence-based methods to improve health care for women and children. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Emory University and a Masters of Science in Global Health from Duke University.
Tasha Muhammad, IMH-E (II), LPC, RPT | Professional Development Specialist
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.”
Heather Pugh | Safe Babies Coordinator – Tarrant County
As the Safe Babies Coordinator for Tarrant County, Heather Pugh, brings with her a passion for infant mental health, its vast impact on future development, and advocacy for the world’s most vulnerable population. Heather is a former Early Intervention Specialist with Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) in which she served as her team’s infant mental health and trauma consultant, gathering years of experience working with infants, toddlers, and their families as a home visitor. Heather collaborated with caregivers to regularly implement several evidence-based practices such as Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), Circle of Security, Bonding and Relaxation Techniques (BART) and Incredible Years Parenting Groups.
Heather graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and then completed a Master’s of Science in Infant/Child Specialist. She has also received her Infant Mental Health Endorsement (II) through First3Years.
Matthew Willoughby, IMH-E | Safe Babies Coordinator – Dallas County
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 the 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)
Kimberly Morris | Marketing Intern
Kimberly is currently enrolled in the Public Health Master’s program at the 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 dual degree in Psychology and Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Public Health. While there she was a research assistant for Caprock FMRI Lab and researched 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 its future impact on life course.