Ashley Borthick, MS, IMH-E (II) | Interim CEO and 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 | Director of Advancement
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.
Christina Henriquez, MSW | 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 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.
Amanda Juarez | Marketing & Communications Assistant
Amanda Juarez serves as the Marketing and Communications Assistant for First3Years. Amanda believes effective communication is key to any organization. She hopes to support First3Years by expanding the organization’s brand recognition and increasing support at events. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with her BS in Public Relations and a minor in Government. Before joining First3Years, Amanda worked at public affairs firm in Central Texas where she helped clients maintain their relationships with local government officials. Additionally, she interned with her state representative where she staffed political events surrounding the border crisis. Amanda has volunteered with children separated at the border and newly migrated families. In her free time, she loves exploring local coffee shops and taking her dog on long walks.
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.
Jyrah Knight | Professional Development Specialist
Jyrah Knight is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University where she received her Master’s degree in Family Studies and Bachelor’s degree in Child Development. Jyrah’s work with children and families has been one of her greatest accomplishments thus far. She takes a family centered approach in all her work. Jyrah formerly worked as an Early Intervention Specialist for ECI, where she learned the true meaning of influencing a child’s microsystem, how to reach all families no matter their cultural background, how to help families navigate crisis and engaging exercises to encourage the development of young children. She is also an advocate for Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) which she believes plays a great role in infant mental health. Jyrah has a passion for educating and empowering families of children with chronic illnesses and disabilities and currently serves as the President of Chronic Endurance.
Sarina Naik | Community System Coordinator
Sarina holds both a Bachelor of Science in Community Health and a Master of Science in Health Education from Texas A&M University. Here, she worked with a breadth of grassroots health organizations to increase community engagement and ensure individuals were served in meaningful ways. Her passion for mental health education and desire to support infants and their families led her to her current position as First3Years’ Community System Coordinator. Through this role, Sarina primarily serves the Houston area by strengthening the network of care for infants and toddlers. She brings experience in evidence-based practice to the table as she consistently strives to bridge the gap between theoretical and implementable. Outside of First3Years, Sarina loves starting new craft projects and exploring the great outdoors.
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.
Michael Rovaris | Professional Development Manager
As the Professional Development Manager, Michael works collaboratively with the management team of First3Years and statewide partners to develop and provide best practices training opportunities for early child professionals, staff, and family members.
Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in Broadcast Management and a Master’s of Social Work degree from Southern University at New Orleans. Before joining First3Years, Michael worked in over a dozen countries providing counseling to military personnel and their families while stationed abroad. On many of these assignments Michael enjoyed working as a consultant to the staff and families of the child development centers. In addition to this work, Michael has been an Assistant Professor of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, worked as a paid consultant to the Children’s Television Workshop the producers of Sesame Street and as a Senior Trainer at ZERO TO THREE, The National Center for Infants Toddlers and Families. Michael is also currently a National Trainer for the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Harvard.
Kay Hopper | Data Analyst Intern
Kay Hopper currently serves as a Data Analyst Intern for First3Years. With 40 years of experience with children, families, and disability issues, she feels strongly about the importance of strong positive relationships between young children and their parents and primary caregivers. With an M.A. degree in Speech Pathology from Texas Tech, she used that degree as a Speech Therapist at The Warren Center starting in 1983. She was the CEO/Executive Director there from 1994-2013. That experience with non-profit management provides an extensive background in the value of accurate data to support ongoing quality improvement and growth. She has been involved with First3Years since 1996, having served previously on the Professional Education Committee and the Board of Directors, serving as Board President in 1999.
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.