Louis A. Finney, Jr. has over two decades of experience leading small to super grantee sized Head Start and Human Services agencies and has founded consulting and advocacy firms in early care and education such as the greater Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute, RESET Institute and Next Level Learner. He also has led multiple Child Advocacy and Association Organizations such as the Virginia and Florida Head Start Association as their former President, Treasurer of the National Head Start Association, and his current position of President of the National Association for Family Childcare. While in Florida Louis was the Executive Vice President for Lutheran Services Florida the largest Head Start and Early Care organization in the South Eastern United States. He grew that business line from $3 million to $80 million in funding in the first three years. He also was a County Department Director responsible for Children and Head Start Services in Florida where he grew the department from $26 million to $32 million and started the first two Family Childcare Early Head Start Delegate Programs in the South Eastern U.S. Louis has a B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, certification in Legal Studies and Federal Law Enforcement from the U.S. Army. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Wilmington University, Post Graduate Doctoral Studies in Non-Profit Management and is currently completing his Doctor in Business Management in Strategic Leadership from Liberty University. In addition to his civilian experience Louis is a U.S. Army and Army Reserve Veteran, having served honorably in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Military Police Platoon Leader.
Marvin J. Fulwood III is our Communication and Administration Specialist. He recently worked as a Special Education Teacher for Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools supporting Educational Success and Behavioral Interventions within the community. Outside of the classroom, he impacts the lives of our youth by coaching track and field at East Forsyth High School and Tri-City Relays, engaging in community outreach, rebuilding, and investment programs. He also is a former administrative assistant at the Griffin Community Recreation Center in Greensboro, NC.
As a dynamic and versatile role model and leader, Marvin also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a focus on Juvenile Intervention and Crime Prevention from Winston-Salem State University. Marvin is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He remains committed to building a better communication and partnership role with community leaders and Smart Start of Forsyth County. As the Administrative and Communication Specialist, Marvin provides administrative and communication support for Smart Start, the Board of Directors, and the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).
Dr. Hefner has an extensive background in early childhood education, specifically with Head Start a comprehensive federal Early Childhood Development program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. She brings expertise in policy implementation, program development, training, and technical assistance as well as program evaluation. She began her career as a Family and Community Partnership manager for a Head Start program in New Britain, CT. In 2000, she was a National Head Start Fellowship recipient where she worked in the Office of Head Start’s Training and Technical Assistance Division. She later worked as a senior analyst/writer for the National Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Resource Center in Arlington, VA.
Traci is also a licensed master social worker and recently earned a PhD in International Family and Community Studies from Clemson University. During her doctoral studies, she held a research internship position with UN Women in Beijing, China and focused on gender-based violence issues. Moreover, she is a member of PRISMA Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine’s Human Trafficking Task Force in Greenville, SC, and a volunteer trainer on child sex trafficking for Shared Hope International, an organization focused on eradicating child sex trafficking in the United States.
Ashley T. Martin is our Director of Advancement and Community Engagement. With 15 years of fundraising and public administration experience, and over $43 million in successful grant funding and donor acquisitions across various sectors, Ashley provides strategic and operational oversight for non-programmatic functions, including fundraising, community relations, marketing and communications, business development, volunteerism, advertising, special events, and agency awareness initiatives. She provides advancement and community engagement planning that is focused on defining and achieving SSFC’s strategic philanthropy goals while managing and implementing operations that breathe life into the community, including annual giving, donor engagement, stewardship, prospecting, and recognition initiatives. She also works on high-level and strategic initiatives that impact thousands of children in life-changing ways every year, stemming from grants, giving and donations, enrichment activities, and mentorship opportunities for our students from members of the public.
Prior to joining SSFC, Ms. Martin served our U.S. Navy, state/ county government, and corporations. She
also holds a B.A. in English from Georgia Southern University, an ABA Paralegal Certificate from
Gainesville State College, and a M.A. in Justice Administration from American Military University.
Dr. Lauren Hargrave is our Early Intervention Coordinator. She is passionate about ensuring quality education for all individuals. Dr. Hargrave completed her Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Kentucky in 2017. She has taught early childhood education and psychology courses at the collegiate level as well as teaching in childcare centers. Additionally, Lauren has experience working on the administrative side of higher education where she focused on implementing various diversity initiatives for underrepresented groups. As a licensed B-K educator, she enjoys helping other educators ensure they are providing equitable and quality education to all children by providing professional development and coaching to teachers.
Director of Continuous Quality Improvement and Partnerships
Director of Continuous Quality Improvement and Partnerships
Melissa Estler is our Director of Continuous Quality Improvement and Partnerships for Smart Start of Forsyth County. Melissa has over a decade of experience in early care and education most recently worked at Guilford County Child development as their Quality Control Director responsible for program information reporting, evaluation and maintaining the data based used to measure performance of one of the largest Head Start programs in NC. She is a Winston-Salem native with a B.S. in Criminal Justice and M.A. in Administration.
Vanessa Sawyer-Wilson has been working and volunteering in the early childhood field for over 20 years. She has served as a child-care center director and taught all levels of early childhood development. She acquired her undergraduate degree from Winston Salem State University and her Master of Arts in teaching degree from Salem
College. Vanessa currently coordinates programs of Teaching and Learning Services for SSFC, where she is afforded the privilege of providing services on the behalf of Forsyth County’s youngest citizens and greatest resource, children. She is a proud member of several professional organizations that work and advocate on the behalf of children, such as The National Black Child Development Institute and the National Associational for the Education of Young Children. Vanessa believes that all children should have access to high quality learning environments that are well-quipped with high performing teachers and parents, who serve as a child’s first instructor.
Sherri is an Early Educator with over 30 years of managerial and education experience that focuses on quality and building relationships with her team, families, providers, and community partners. She is currently the Family Intake Coordinator, managing the childcare scholarship programs for SSFC. She holds a B.S. degree from WSSU in Birth to Kindergarten Education with a focus on Leadership and Administration. Sherri has held many titles during her career including, elementary school teacher, WS Parks and Recreation Site Supervisor, Wilson Language Series and Orton-Gillingham tutor, Professional Development Specialist, Childcare Center Director, Center Management Specialist, and Teaching and Learning Specialist. Sherri’s biggest professional accomplishment is finishing her degree while working full time and raising her 15-year-old son.