Porter-Leath provides affordable early childhood education

WREG recently spotlighted Porter-Leath as part of their "Community Changers" feature and donated $1,000 with the help of Brown Missionary Baptist Church. The feature discussed how Porter-Leath is providing affordable early childhood education for local family and showcased a bit of the new Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound. Click here or the image above to watch the spotlight online.

Posted by Mary Braddock at Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound

Porter-Leath and the University of Memphis is hosting a special hiring event for our Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound. We are specifically looking for Preschool Teachers, Infant/Toddler Teachers and Assistant Teachers for the Orange Mound location.

Stop by the career fair at the Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound (2869 Park Ave, Memphis, TN 38114):

  • March 23rd from 4 - 7 p.m.
  • March 24th from 12 - 3 p.m.

Meet our team and learn how you can build a career at Porter-Leath!

Candidates should arrive in business casual attire, bring a resumé, and be prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position. Porter-Leath’s professional team brings vital early childhood resources and family services to local children, educators and families. All positions are are eligible for a sign on bonus, plus Porter-Leath's robust benefits menu.

See all open positions and learn more about available benefits at or email for specific questions related to hiring.

Posted by Mary Braddock at Monday, March 20, 2023

April 29th - A Hope for the Future: Fight Against Gun Violence

AmeriCorps members at Porter-Leath will be hosting a free community symposium, A Hope for the Future: Fight Against Gun Violence. The event is open to the public with a focus on families with children ages 8 - 18 years old. A Hope for the Future will take place on April 29, 2023, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound, 2869 Park Avenue, Memphis, TN 38114. 

This community-driven event is for parents who are tired of the gun violence that is affecting our city. Learn how to bring hope back to our communities by getting down to the root of the real reason why youth are acting out in violent ways. Multiple guest speakers and panels will discuss important topics including gun violence, bullying, and peer pressure. It is also supported by alumni volunteers of the Memphis Parent Leadership Training Institute housed at Porter-Leath.

To reserve your spot and learn more about A Hope for the Future: Fight Against Gun Violence, special guest speakers, vendor fair, and more, please visit

Posted by Mary Braddock at Thursday, March 16, 2023

NEXT Memphis Continues to Meet the Needs of Childcares, Children and Families

During its second year of service, NEXT Memphis partnered with 22 childcare centers and 15 family childcare centers. Through its intensive educational support and full family wraparound services, NEXT Memphis served over 1,592 children and over 1,392
families. NEXT Memphis staff also saved childcare partners time and money through business, finance, and maintenance support. With NEXT Memphis partners reporting a range of cost savings from $45,000 to $108,000 over the past year.
In addition to providing cost-saving back office support and professional development for partners the initiative provides NEXT Memphis partner families with wraparound support. This support pairs each family with a family liaison and connection to NEXT Memphis Care Coordination for families experiencing economic barriers to self-sufficiency like homelessness, unemployment, transportation, lack of food, financial insecurity, or domestic violence. Care Coordinators are experienced social workers that partner with parents or caregivers to establish short and long-term goals towards family stability and success. The Coordinators support the achievement of families’ goals through coordinated referrals and connection to community resources.

One example of care coordination is Berneshia, a single parent of three young children. Berneshia became homeless after chronic domestic violence incidents. Upon leaving the unsafe environment with her children, she moved into a shelter until she was able to access housing. Since being with Care Coordination, Berneshia has obtained stable, subsidized transitional housing for her family. With help from her Coordinator, Berneshia enrolled in the EXCEL center and completed her high school diploma and her certified nursing assistant diploma. She just began on the job training in healthcare and is more confident about the safety and security of her family.

For more information about NEXT Memphis, contact Alicia Norman, NEXT Memphis Director at or visit

Providing a Home for Youth at Sarah’s Place

Porter-Leath’s Sarah’s Place is a residential facility on Manassas Street, which has space available for youth who need a safe and nurturing environment to live away from home. Sarah’s Place is operated by clinical staff 24-hours a day and focuses on providing trauma informed support to both youth and their families. Tony Jackson, Jr. is a case manager for Residential Services who sees his role as an opportunity to ‘fill the gap’ for youth at Sarah’s Place. He says that while not all of the teens’ stories are the same, they unfortunately all have home situations that currently are not conducive to a healthy living situation. Jackson works in conjunction with his Residential Services team - including residential monitors, on-site therapists, leadership and case managers - to provide for the safety and wellbeing of those in their care.

Jackson coordinates with each youth’s social worker from the Department of Children Services and ensures that the teens are able to attend doctor appointments and court appearances, and obtain any supplies or resources they may need. Building a rapport with each teen and establishing positive routines are also primary goals for Jackson. At Sarah’s Place, there is a points structure that helps reinforce positive behaviors like good behavior, participating in group therapy, going to school and maintaining tidy surroundings. “Some kids don’t always have people that care about them or just someone to listen. That is why I think our staff is most impactful, kids feel like they can open up and tell us things they don’t feel comfortable telling their peers,“ Jackson said.

The team at Sarah’s Place is willing and able to provide motivation and guidancetowards good choices and behaviors. They also look for opportunities to provide fun and meaningful activities for the youth through weekend activities like stopping by the riverwalk downtown on a beautiful day, visiting the National Civil Rights Museum or bringing in a barber for new hair cuts. The ultimate goal of residential services is the reunification of families or the ability to find a safe, permanent home with a relative or forever family. However, while youth are housed at Sarah’s Place, they can expect to find an accepting, positive environment that can provide structure and stability during otherwise turbulent times.

For more information about Connections, visit or contact Dennis Fleming, Vice President of Social Services, at

Porter-Leath teacher coaching program aims to professionalize early childhood education

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

Samantha West, Chalkbeat Tennessee


Clarissa Odom had her hands — and lap — full when a visitor stopped into her preschool classroom.

Odom, a new infants teacher at a Porter-Leath center in Orange Mound, sat cross-legged on a colorful rug, bouncing two finicky babies looking for snuggles, one on each knee. At the same time, she tried to comfort a crying baby propped up on a boppy pillow in front of her. The visitor, Nicole Williams, greeted Odom with a cheerful “Good morning!” and without another word, crouched to the floor to help her comfort the crying child. Once the baby calmed down a bit, Williams turned to Odom, smiled, and asked, “How’s everything with the curriculum going?”

Between cuddles, coos, and songs, Odom told Williams about her theme of the week — insects or “creepy crawlers.” Odom reviewed some books she’d read and songs she’d sung to the children so far. Williams suggested an art project: putting paint on the infants’ fingertips to create fingerprint ants. She offered to help Odom find another book, perhaps about spiders. Williams’ visit on that November day is part of an ambitious effort by Porter-Leath, one of Memphis’ largest providers of preschool services, to professionalize early childhood education and help new teachers become superior educators. As an instructional coach in Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program, Williams provides teachers with real-time feedback on their instructional methods and student interactions, helps brainstorm new lesson plans or gathers classroom supplies, depending on what the educator needs that day.

A distinguishing feature of the program: Giving teachers a chance to participate in professional development during the school day, while another qualified teacher looks after their students and keeps lessons on track. Porter-Leath officials hope the program will not only help teachers become better prepared and more effective in the classroom, but also improve educational outcomes for Shelby County’s youngest residents, as Memphis and Tennessee grapple with bleak literacy rates and overall learning loss after the pandemic. Supporting and investing in early childhood educators is especially important as preschools and early childhood centers struggle to recruit and retain teachers and other staff — a problem that worsened during COVID and continues to wreak havoc on providers in Tennessee and across the nation.

A report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment last week found that national child care employment is steadily increasing, but it’s still 8% below what it was in February 2020. “The workforce itself is depleted,” said Elizabeth Pufall Jones, director of preparation and work environment programs at the research center. “And the solutions and initiatives to fix it are not getting a lot of traction.” Against that backdrop, Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program stands out as a model for how other institutions and cities throughout the U.S. can improve teacher quality and morale in the early childhood education profession, and boost student outcomes. 

By national standards, Memphis doesn’t have an acute shortage of early childhood education options. But developing high-quality programs has been a persistent challenge across the region’s fragmented network of small and independent child care centers. So three years ago, Porter-Leath expanded the Teacher Excellence Program beyond its own preschool centers, and now provides coaching and professional development to 23 privately owned child care centers and 13 in-home daycares across the county, as well as First 8 Memphis pre-K. Officials with the nonprofit preschool giant hope to keep the program growing. Much more still needs to be done to elevate the early childhood education profession and address widespread burnout among teachers and other child care workers, Jones said. The pandemic has fueled conversations about ensuring that early childhood teachers, who face debt burdens from the degrees and certifications they need, earn a living wage. 

But a critical piece, Jones said, is having a supportive work environment. Jones has found that providing professional development and real-time coaching to teachers can be a powerful tool to reduce turnover and empower teachers. “We know that ages 0 to 5 are the most critical and important years for a child’s development and if they’re not properly supported during the first five years, it’s that much harder for a child to recover and progress,” Jones said. “We need to value the work that child care workers do and support them. It’s much more than babysitting.”

Since launching in 2017, the Teacher Excellence Program has provided hundreds of Memphis early childhood teachers like Odom with professional development opportunities — both through classroom coaching and regular training sessions embedded throughout the school day. Participants come from within Porter-Leath network and the other providers it partners with. Porter-Leath spent about $420,000 on the program in the fiscal year ending in 2019.

A November 2019 study of the program’s impact by an independent consultant found that in the first year, an overwhelming majority of participating teachers said the instructional coaching was “very helpful” and had a large impact on their classroom practices. In turn, students’ pre-literacy skills and kindergarten readiness significantly improved, as measured by assessment scores at the beginning and end of the school year. The pandemic prevented Porter-Leath from collecting more current data, but Kelley Nichols, vice president of early childhood services, said it’s clear that teachers participating in the program continue to improve — and so do the students. “The goal is to really just come alongside teachers at any level, meet them where they are, find out what their unique goals are, and help them grow,” Nichols said.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools and state education officials have emphasized improving early childhood education as a way to boost academic results. But MSCS abruptly cut ties with Porter-Leath in June 2021, ending a seven-year partnership in which Porter-Leath provided pre-kindergarten and Head Start services to over 3,000 students. Even so, the nonprofit remains one of Memphis’ largest providers of early education instruction, and an influential force in workforce training.

Over the years that Nichols worked in child care centers and school districts, she attended training sessions regularly. But it often meant staying late, long after the school day ended, to attend a session from 5 to 9 p.m. Sometimes it meant coming in on the weekends. Nichols understood why training couldn’t be held in the middle of the school day — who would take care of her classroom and others? — but those added hours for little or no extra pay in an already demanding field were exhausting. On top of that, there was often little follow through on the training, Nichols said. “You would go to a training, you learn stuff, you kind of check a box that you’ve done it, but nobody cared whether you implemented any of it in the classroom,” she said. “There really wasn’t accountability.” Nichols complains of what she calls the “Monday morning effect” — when something learned over the weekend is forgotten by the next week. That’s what makes Nichols so passionate about the Teacher Excellence Program she oversees. Though Porter-Leath holds larger professional development conferences a few weekends a year, most of its teacher training occurs during the work day, as in most other professions.

So who watches the children? That’s where the relief teachers come in. 

These are not unqualified substitutes. Relief teachers in the Porter-Leath system must have at least two years of experience as an early childhood education classroom teacher, with formalized education or certification in the field, and are expected to continue the teacher’s lesson plan. “You don’t have to worry about your class,” Nichols said. “A relief teacher will go into your classroom, they’ll teach the regular day’s lessons, meet children where they are, and keep them safe, so the teachers can focus on that training and then take that back into their classroom.”  “We created this program to really respect and honor the profession,” Nichols said. The instructional coaches visit teachers at least weekly for around two hours at a time. They, too, must be highly qualified, Nichols said — Porter-Leath requires them to have a master’s degree, a minimum of six years of experience as an early childhood classroom teacher, and an ability to train adult learners. Beyond typical first aid and CPR trainings, professional development provided by Williams and Porter-Leath’s six other instructional coaches centers on topics such as literacy, health, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), and social-emotional learning — an especially important focus given many of the children Porter-Leath serves come from Memphis’ poorest neighborhoods and are more likely to struggle academically.

Williams recalls falling in love with early childhood education when she started working at a Memphis daycare at age 17. A self-proclaimed kid at heart, Williams enjoyed the laughter and love that came with playing with children and helping them grow. But self doubt frequently plagued her in the classroom. Was she interacting with the children the way she should? Was she cut out to be the kind of teacher who set children up for success beyond preschool? Ultimately, Williams’ passion won out over her doubts. Though she had long planned on studying criminal law, she switched majors during her sophomore year at the University of Memphis. She’s been working in the early childhood profession for over two decades in Shelby County — as a teacher, the director of three child care centers, a state program evaluator tasked with ensuring child care centers meet Tennessee regulations, and a consultant who helped child care providers select developmentally appropriate furniture, toys, and curriculum. All of those experiences feed into Williams’ work today as an instructional coach at Porter-Leath.

As a teacher, Williams felt that sometimes all she needed was a cheerleader — someone who could reassure her that she was doing OK, even if her lesson plan didn’t turn out exactly the way she had envisioned. That’s the kind of mentor Williams aims to be for all the teachers she works with, though it looks different from person to person. “My first goal with my teachers is to build relationships,” Williams said. “Every teacher is different, every personality is different. As their advocate, I have to meet them where they are.”

Odom, a new employee at the Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound, is still getting settled in her infant classroom. This is her first job in a larger center. Before this, she largely worked in home daycares. So for Odom, Williams’ support is more hands on. During her visit to Odom’s classroom Nov. 16, Williams’ suggestions ranged from how to incorporate Porter-Leath curriculum naturally into the babies’ days, to how to rearrange the cribs, to techniques for comforting an upset baby.

Later that morning, Williams met with Deanna Rayner, a Porter-Leath teacher for nearly a decade. Rayner beamed with pride as she watched her 13 preschoolers — ages 3 to 5 — shuffle between stations before settling into their new activities. The question of the day was “What do we know about buildings?” and Rayner had students drawing their own buildings in one corner of her classroom, while others constructed buildings with Legos and blocks in other areas. Keeping the attention of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds has become increasingly difficult as children are introduced to technology earlier and earlier, Rayner said. But that day, as the children moved on to a hands-on group activity mixing dirt and water together to simulate mixing concrete for the foundation of a building, they seemed to have no trouble engaging.

“You’ve got to get more creative in order for them to pick up what we want them to pick up,” Rayner said with a laugh. “We have to work really hard.” It’s one of many challenges Rayner has had to navigate as an educator. But with the support of Williams and the Teacher Excellence Program over the last five years, Rayner doesn’t feel quite as overwhelmed.  After looking around the classroom and observing Rayner for a while, Williams suggested displaying the question of the day on another spot on the wall and pledged to bring Rayner more chart paper from the supply closet. When Rayner expressed concern over when she’d have time to hang up a new wall display, Williams offered to take care of it herself.

Rayner credits Williams and the program as a whole with helping her become a better teacher. “She helps us. She is supportive. She comes in here to check on us and makes sure we have everything we need,” Rayner said. Instructional coaches “are that shoulder, that support that we need.”

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This story is the second installment of a Chalkbeat Tennessee deep dive into the role early childhood can play in improving literacy in Memphis and across the Volunteer State. This effort is supported by the Education Writers Association Reporting Fellowship program.

Samantha West is a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee, where she covers K-12 education in Memphis. Connect with Samantha at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

at Thursday, December 15, 2022

Growing in Language and Literacy

Did you know that conversational turns are powerful? Conversational turns are simple back-and-forth alternations between a child and an adult. A turn has occurred when an adult speaks and a child follows, or vice versa, with no more than five seconds in between. Through Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program, early childhood educators across Memphis are learning about the daily impact of these conversational turns on the brain structure/function and socioemotional development of children in their care. This fall, the Teacher Excellence Program has a cohort of sixty early childhood educators, teaching children ages 6 weeks through 4 years old, who are collecting data through the LENA Grow program so they can better assess the interactions happening in their own classroom.

These educators are motivated to become active participants in their own professional development — both for their own future and that of the children in their care. Through LENA Grow, TEP is giving early childhood educators the tools they need to improve language environments equitably and to truly connect with each and every child in their care. Students wear vest with recording devices that count the number of conversational turns used in the classroom. LENA Grow not only enhances communication through the classroom teachers, but LENA Grow also makes a huge impact in our students’ communication as well. By utilizing the fourteen Talking Tips along with the Conversational Starters, teachers are able to set Early Head Start, Pre-K and Preschool classrooms on the right path for meaningful conversation throughout the day. LENA Grow allows educators to set and accomplish goals related to language and literacy. Students gain the opportunity to listen and practice oral language skills. The curriculum encourages students to form relationships with each other, strengthens classroom community, and encourages strong habits that lead to better quality language skills and more effective learning.

Our students looked forward to becoming “Super Communicators” when placing on their LENA vests. LENA encourages more quiet students to thrive and engage all days even when they are not wearing their special vests. LENA Grow gives classrooms a more personal touch with each and every student. This professional development opportunity is made possible with support from the Urban Child Institute. Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program is thankful for their investment in early childhood educators.

Contact Marilyn Donaldson, Teacher Excellence Program Manager, at to learn more about the Teacher Excellence Program!

Screenings Provide Baseline for Learning Success

Porter-Leath values providing the earliest intervention for the children and families we serve. One way our staff fulfills this value is by offering all students connected to Porter-Leath with a variety of health screenings. Lead by Stephanie Jones, Porter-Leath’s Health Services Manager, the initial screenings take place at the beginning of the school year, most of which occur within 45-90 days from the first day of school. Jones’ team collaborates with fellow Porter-Leath staff members and community organizations like the University of Memphis and Focus First to screen nearly 2,000 students each fall.

Children who may have undiagnosed developmental delays, learning disorders, behavioral and social-emotional concerns or difficulty with
hearing, vision or speech can result in reduced academic performance, and low self-esteem. By screening children early in their lives, Porter-Leath can help identify benchmarks for growth, provide preventative measures and help families learn how to support children year-round!
With caregiver consent, children are screened for behavioral and learning delays in addition to vision, hearing, speech and general health. Once children are screened, caregivers are able to review the results and are supported by Porter-Leath staff for any additional follow up. This follow up may be in the form of a referral to specialists, contact with either Tennessee’s Early Intervention System or the Local Education Agency, or simply helping families know what to ask their pediatrician at their child’s next check-up.

Additionally, Porter-Leath is able to assist families who may need to develop an Individual Family Service Plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP) for their child. By creating an a plan, educators, caregivers and family liaisons can combine their efforts in helping a child succeed inside and outside the classroom by addressing specific needs. “Many families have said to our staff, ‘I knew there was something going on with my child, but I didn’t know the first step,’ and that is why I feel this work is so important,” said Stephanie Jones. She goes on to explain, “We want to rule out any concerns so that children are best able to learn and families can be confident in their ability to advocate for their children.”
The Health Services team provides additional screenings as needed in the spring to capture newly enrolled students and supply ongoing support for families. By providing screenings for over twenty years, Porter-Leath is committed to the comprehensive health of local children and to building strong learners in our community.

Learn more about the early learning options available at Porter-Leath visit today!

Books from Birth Hosts “A Night Around the World”

While all Tennessee drivers must obtain a new license plate this year, many may be unaware a Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library license plate is available as an option for drivers. Simply search or ask for “Dollywood Foundation” when you purchase your speciality plate. A portion of the license plate sale is distributed to the local Imagination Library affiliate within the county chosen at the time of purchase. This means that over $15 of each Imagination Library plate purchased in Shelby County returns to your local affiliate, Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth program, and recent Books from Birth event routine. 

Through the funds raised by local drivers, Books from Birth was able to host its first in-person parent engagement event since the start of COVID-19. This fall, Books from Birth hosted A Night Around the World event at the Karl and Gail Schledwitz Porter-Leath Early
Childhood Academy in Frayser. The purpose of the event was to reengage in person with local children and families and to educate them on
the importance of early literacy. This event created an opportunity for families to participate in multiple literacy activities and storytimes with their children, as they used their imagination to explore other locations around the world. Porter-Leath staff across the agency supported the planning and implementation of this event to ensure it met age appropriate learning experiences and created effective parent engagement, helping caregivers incorporate early literacy in their family’s Children engaged in themed activities as they traveled around the world at a recent Books from Birth event routine.

Over forty children and parents were welcomed aboard to a night of imagination-driven activities and stories through an balloon arch representing the colors of international flags. Little tourists received a backpack and passport plus a photo with their family before their trip began. The busy hallways were filled with children’s music from around the world. At each stop during the family’s experience, staff members stamped the participants’ passports and welcomed families in the language of the destination. Teachers and volunteers showed families how to engage with their child in activities after listening to a story associated with the destination.

Families visited Africa, China, France, Germany, Mexico, and the Porter-Leath Global Village and ended their journeys with a hearty meal. The Global Village allowed parents to learn about community resources and other Porter-Leath programs that were available for their children and family. Approximately twenty-four parents registered with programs to connect their children with
additional resources. Finally, no trip is complete without a souvenir. Each participant departed their tour with a prize to help fuel their love of learning. Parent engagement opportunities such as these are made possible because of you, our supportive and generous donors, to your local Imagination Library affiliate, Books from Birth.

To learn more about Books from Birth or the Dollywood Foundation license plate, contact D. Wynett Jones, Program Director, at

Building New Partnerships Among Families and Community Resources

The Early Success Coalition at Porter-Leath is gearing up for the second cohort of the Memphis Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and all parents and caregivers in Shelby County are invited to apply! The Parent Leadership Training Institute is a free 20-week course designed to equip parents with the knowledge and skills to advocate for policies and practices that benefit children and families in Memphis. Parents participate in a retreat, attend a weekly 3 hour workshop, and complete a community project prior to graduation.

In May, Porter-Leath graduated twenty parents from the first ever Memphis cohort of PLTI. One of those parents, Monica Everett, shared that she joined the inaugural class of Memphis PLTI to learn more about advocacy and reinvigorate her voice and leadership skills. Through the support of the initiative, Ms. Everett successfully launched “All Aboard for Autism: Bringing Parents Together and Embracing the Normalcy of Autism in Communities.” All Aboard for Autism provides empowerment, knowledge and support for parents of children on the autism spectrum, particularly focusing on networking and resources for early intervention.

Ms. Everett credits the principles, strategies, support, and community gained from PLTI in helping her follow her passion and make the project a reality. She shared “I wanted to build a coalition for change and awareness in the Memphis community. With the launch of the first two parent support group meetings, I am hopeful for the future.” Since graduating from PLTI, Ms. Everett has launched a blog to document her family’s journey with autism and has joined two additional leadership advocacy programs - the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Partners in Policymaking for the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. She encourages others to consider participating in the PLTI initiative - “It could be the spark you need to empower yourself and empower others to ACT, not fear; to LEAD and not wait for others to do so; to aim for PROGRESS not perfection; to START with what you HAVE instead of what you lack,” she said.

Ms. Everett went on to explain, “Parent leaders have the power to positively influence families, neighborhoods, systems, but most importantly, our greatest impact is right in our own homes. PLTI helps you to take a look right around you to determine where the needs are and then gives you the essential tools to get started.” The Memphis Parent Leadership Training Institute is now accepting applications for the 2022-23 cohort. Caregivers in Shelby County looking to advance their efforts to create community change are encouraged to apply at

To learn more about the Early Success Coalition, contact Kellie Spilman, Program Director, at or visit the Early Success Coalition website!

AmeriCorps Member at Porter-Leath Reflects on Impact

Children need strong, consistent relationships with caring adults that help build confidence and life skills. They need Generations, the home for AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Senior volunteers at Porter-Leath. Generations helps to fill the gap, bringing children in need together with adults in a mutually-beneficial service experience. AmeriCorps is not just a volunteer program, it is a program full of opportunities. This fact was especially true for Jasmine Joyner. As an AmeriCorps member, Jasmine knew she would learn to develop her teaching skills, while giving back to her community, but what she did not know was how much of an impact the children would make on her. One of her favorite and most memorable moments during her service term was working with one of the children who was very shy, reserved and rarely verbal. Jasmine began researching lessons and activities that would engage this young girl to help her feel comfortable in expressing herself verbally and in developing her language skills.

Jasmine saw little outward progress but continued to diligently engage with the child. One day as the class was getting ready to go outside to play, the young girl grabbed her coat and walked right up to Jasmine and said, “Help with my coat please.” Those were the first words Jasmine had ever heard this young girl say. “It was not much, but it filled my heart with joy,” said Jasmine. She learned that day that to have faith in continuously investing in children because one day that investment will produce fruit. Porter-Leath AmeriCorps members provide enrichment
within the classroom to children who need additional assistance to reach their language and literacy milestones. Over the course of their service term, members help to increase the literacy scores for children to help them become kindergarten ready.

If you or someone you know has a heart for education and would like to engage with children through a 6, 9 or 12 month service learning position, contact us today at (901) 577-2500 ext. 1128 or our Generations webpage

Porter-Leath Cornerstone Celebrates Blue Ribbon Status

Porter-Leath’s Cornerstone Program provides home visitation services and resources through affiliation with the national Parents As Teachers home visiting model, which promotes the optimal early development, learning, and health of children by supporting and engaging their parents and caregivers. In Porter-Leath Cornerstone services can be offered prenatally until children enter kindergarten.

Porter-Leath Cornerstone operates in both Shelby and Fayette Counties and the 10 certified parent educators work with over 200 families each year. Families meet with their parent educator at least twice a month and have the opportunity to attend monthly group connections with other families of young children. The caregiver is able to set measurable goals and is assisted by their parent educator to meet those goals through a combination of monthly lessons, resources and referrals.

Over the past three years, Porter-Leath Cornerstone has worked through the PAT Quality Endorsement and Improvement Process (QEIP) to achieve Blue Ribbon affiliate status - the highest recognition given to local programs. The process helps ensure that PAT affiliates are achieving fidelity to the model and delivering high quality services - truly making a difference in the lives of children and families. As an example of Porter-Leath’s success, last year, over 96% of children born to mothers in Cornerstone had healthy birth weights and 92% of familes were connected to at least one community resource.

The PAT Quality Endorsement and Improvement Process examines both an affiliate’s Annual Performance Review and the affiliate’s ability to meet at least 80% of 81 additional quality standards. It also utilizes quality measurements such as program fiscal sustainability, staff training opportunities, leadership structure and support, detailed documentation of services and a two day site visit from a Parents As Teachers reviewer. 

While the Annual Performance Review may measure the number of monthly group connections offered to families, the Quality Endorsement and Improvement Process would also review the types of topics covered at the monthly meetings and how families were able to use the information gained from those connections.

This August, Cornerstone achieved Blue Ribbon affiliate status by not only exceeding the essential requirements found in their Annual Performance Review but by going above and beyond to meet 96% of the quality standards outlined by Parents as Teachers. Cornerstone Director Kimberly Thomas gives credit for this achievement to the quality of her team. “You can see it in their work that they LOVE what they do. You can see it from their actions and from the outcomes that we see for families. I couldn’t ask for a better team,” she said.

Receiving the Parents as Teachers Blue Ribbon affiliate designation further emphasizes Porter-Leath’s commitment to data-driven, evidence based approaches to serving children and families in our community.

Porter-Leath Introduces Living Wage Initiative for All Employees

Three years ago, Porter-Leath undertook a top-to-bottom review of existing and potential programs designed to attract and retain top talent.

One key initiative that was important to Porter-Leath’s Board and Senior Staff was to implement a living wage program that ensured all employees made an hourly pay rate of $15 or more with benefits. Because grants and contracts that Porter-Leath relies on do not rise significantly year over year, careful planning and incremental steps had to be taken to make gradual changes to compensation.

On September 1, 2022, Porter-Leath officially announced that all current and future employees of Porter-Leath will have an hourly pay rate of $15 per hour. “This process took a huge commitment from our Board and some careful financial management of our budget. We are extremely proud to launch this initiative for our employees,” said Angela Lamb, Human Resources Director.

In addition to competitive pay, Porter-Leath offers great benefits, flexible work arrangements, a great work culture and meaningful work for a Mission that makes Memphis a better place to live.

To learn more about careers and view a menu of benefits available at Porter-Leath, please visit

at Friday, September 16, 2022

Porter-Leath to Host Agency-Wide Job Fair


Porter-Leath will be hosting an agency-wide job fair at the Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound. (Job positions are available across all of Porter-Leath's departments and locations.)

We are seeking Certified Pre-K Teachers, Certified Special Education Pre-K Teachers, Preschool Teachers, Assistant Teachers, Floaters, Home Visitors, Residential Monitors, and more!

The mission of Porter-Leath is empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. Our professional team brings vital early childhood resources and family services to local children, educators and families.

Porter-Leath offers competitive salaries, professional development plans, career advancement opportunities, 401k, and a team-based work environment. All positions qualify for sign on bonuses of $750 or greater.

Candidates should arrive to the event in business casual attire, bring a resumé, and be prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position.

Explore some of our currently open postions on our Careers page.

Monday, September 12, 5pm – 8pm
Tuesday, September 13, 5pm – 8pm
Wednesday, September 14, 5pm – 8pm
Thursday, September 15, 5pm – 8pm

WHERE: Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound 
2869 Park Avenue, Memphis, TN 38114

at Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Porter-Leath Welcomes New NEXT Memphis Director

NEXT Memphis, an initiative of Porter-Leath, announces its new director, Alicia Norman. Norman has worked in early childhood education for over 25 years. She was Principal of Perea Preschool and Executive Director of Perea Elementary School, where Norman helped create a unique, nationally-acclaimed school model that focused on multiple facets of a child’s intelligence. She most recently served as a PreK Site Director for Memphis-Shelby County Schools.

“My mission in education is to prepare all students academically, socially, and emotionally for success today and tomorrow,” said Norman. “I am thrilled to lead the NEXT Memphis team that embodies those same values, while uplifting our community, strengthening small businesses and enhancing the quality of child care for families.”

Norman brings with her a long list of tenures as a member of education-focused boards and councils including the CPAC Advisory Council for Shelby County School Pre-K Division, the Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children (TAEYC) and Memphis Association for the Education of Young Children (MAEYC) boards, and currently serves on the boards of First 8 Memphis and Believe Memphis Academy.

“Alicia has a clear commitment to increasing positive outcomes for children and families,” said Sean Lee, Porter-Leath President. “Her depth of knowledge in early childhood education and wealth of experience leading and developing teams made her an ideal choice for the role of NEXT Memphis Director.”


About NEXT Memphis

NEXT Memphis is a shared-service program model that helps independent childcare providers reduce costs and improve outcomes by pooling back office support staff, community resources and administrative amenities. NEXT Memphis also extends Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program to childcare operators, which helps increase classroom engagement and achievement through teacher training, coaching, instruction and observation. Families also have access to wraparound services, helping parents set and achieve goals and connecting them with community resources. Learn more about NEXT Memphis at

Porter-Leath Preschool Job Fair on July 16th

Porter-Leath to Host Preschool Job Fair

WHAT: Porter-Leath Preschool Job Fair. The organization is now seeking Preschool teachers
and teaching assistants to provide high-quality education and support services for all five
preschool locations. Candidates should arrive in business casual attire, bring a resumé, and be
prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position. These are 12-month positions
with a special need for infant/toddler teacher and teaching assistants. $750 sign-on bonuses are

WHO: Porter-Leath Preschool
WHEN: Saturday, July 16, 12p – 4p
WHERE: Porter-Leath Early Childhood Center | Manassas - 890 North Manassas, 38107


Early Head Start Job Fair - July 13th

Porter-Leath to Host a Job Fair for Early Head Start Program

To fast track your hiring experience, complete this ONLINE APPLICATION prior to the event.

Porter-Leath host a Job Fair for Early Head Start (EHS) on Wednesday, July 13th, from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. at the Porter-Leath Early Childhood Center | Range Line at 3274 Range Line Road. Current Early Head Start openings include EHS teacher, floater, and substitute roles for 12-month positions. All open Porter-Leath positions are eligible for a sign-on bonus. For anyone interviewed and hired at the event, a special $1000 sign-on bonus is available and payable after 90 days of successful employment.

Porter-Leath’s mission is empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. Its professional team brings vital early childhood resources and family services to local children, educators and families. Several Porter-Leath sites have Early Head Start for children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old to help with early childhood years. Porter-Leath offers competitive salaries, professional development plans, career advancement opportunities, 401k, and a team-based work environment.

Candidates should arrive in business casual attire with a resumé, and be prepared for an on-site interview should they qualify for a position. To fast track your application process, please submit  your contact information and job history at prior to the event.

Email Patrice Berry at for more information about the event or specific available positions.

Residential Monitor Hiring Event

Come meet us at our hiring event for Residential Monitors that are part of our social services team! Check out the job description and join us July 16th.

Porter-Leath will host a staff recruitment event on Saturday, July 16th at 880 North Manassas Memphis, TN 38107 for Sarah's Place, Porter-Leath’s residential facility. The event has two sessions, the first is from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. and the second is from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m., both held outside with staff grilling out. Porter-Leath will be using this event as a recruitment fair for Sarah’s Place career openings for the full-time role of Residential Monitor, with a specific need for the 4 p.m. - 12 a.m. evening shift. 

The Residential Monitor will oversee and supervise the activities of teenage residents with emotional and behavioral challenges in a group home setting. These staff members will assist, model, and teach residents healthy habits and productive skills related to daily living. 

The Residential Monitor position will include a salary $16 to $18 per hour depending on the applicant’s experience. All open Porter-Leath positions are eligible for a sign-on bonus. For candidates interviewed and hired at the event, a special $1,500 sign-on bonus is available and payable after 90 days of successful employment. This position includes Medical, Dental, and Vision insurance plus company matched 401(k), paid vacation, sick time, and holiday pay.

Porter-Leath’s mission is empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. Its professional team brings vital early childhood resources and family services to local children, educators and families. In addition to the benefits above Porter-Leath offers professional development plans, career advancement opportunities, tuition assistance and a team-based work environment.

Candidates should arrive in business casual dress appropriate for a summer outdoor career fair, bring a resumé, and be prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position. For more information, email Patrice Berry at For additional job openings, please visit

Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth Spring Luncheon Celebrates Early Literacy in Shelby County with Teacher, Teacher

Porter-Leath is announcing their annual Books from Birth spring luncheon, presented by International Paper. The event will take place on Thursday, May 5 beginning at 12:00 PM (doors open at 11:30 AM), at the FedEx Event Center at Shelby Farms. This year’s special guest speaker is Felicia Peat, WKNO's Teacher Teacher, and the luncheon will also be honoring the 2022 AC Wharton, Jr. Literacy Award winner, Karen Vogelsang. Purchase your tickets or whole tables at

Porter-Leath's Books from Birth Program distributes age-appropriate books to over 40,000 children per month, from birth until age five. In partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), Porter-Leath's Books from Birth Program builds a foundation for reading through books for Shelby County’s children. 

While these early literacy resources are provided at no cost to families, the fundraising needs are tremendous and increase every month as the program continues to enroll new children. After negotiating low book costs and generous assistance, the total annual program costs only $21 per child per year. Books from Birth depends on support from individuals and organizations to continue purchasing and mailing books to our community. To learn more about the program, visit

Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound Celebrates Grand Opening


On March 4th, The Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy at Orange Mound celebrated its grand opening. The Academy is a research-based educational facility which serves children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, where care is most crucial and underprovided in Shelby County.

At the grand opening event, representatives from both organizations recognized supporters and leadership that helped make the world-class facility a reality. With the help of some young friends (and their safety scissors), a ribbon was also cut to commemoriate the special day!

The Academy, itself, features 18 classrooms, serving 288 local children. The site design has been inspired by the community and neighborhood traditions of Orange Mound. Through intentional design, the space evokes feelings of community and home with unique features like the addition of a front-porch facade on each classroom, natural playscape designed to promote play-based learning, vaulted ceiling brings and open and airy feeling into developmentally appropriate classrooms, house shaped nooks in hallway for reading and mini hallway stages to promote pretend play.

Like Porter-Leath’s Academies in South Memphis and in Frayser, this Early Childhood Academy will serve as a model of excellence for the education of young children and improves the quality of early childhood staff throughout Shelby County.

Classrooms feature age-appropriate areas for reading, art, science, pretend play and nutrition. Classrooms also hosts two early childhood professionals trained to provide high-quality education for young children and prepare students for kindergarten. All enrolled families receive ongoing, supportive wraparound services to ensure they are connected to community resources and have the opportunity to thrive.

The impact of this project is significant, not only in providing quality early childhood care and wraparound support for children and families in our community, but also on the research, practice and laboratory education it provides for the field of child development, particularly in urban education settings. Both Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program, which provides professional development and training for current early childhood educators, and the University of Memphis, which will host classes for future early learning professionals, can utilize the state-of-the-art research space and observation technology, and training facilities. Training and observation can also be accomplished through on site in-classroom practice and experiences working with families of young children.

The Academy's main lobby is called "Lynne's Room" in memory of Lynne Jordan Turley by her husband, Henry Turley. For decades, Mrs. Turley was a educator, musician and advocate for early learning. Near the main entry desk, visitors can hear about Mrs. Turley's experience and some of her lessons at a special interactive station.

Family watches lessons by Lynn Turley in the new academy in Orange Mound

It also features works of local artists a way to highlight the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Orange Mound. Local artists were chosen in partnership with the Urban Art Commission and 3 artists were selected - Juan Rojo, Daria Davis and Sarai Payne.

The Academy is the latest in a series of additions and expansions to the University of Memphis’ University Schools educational compendium which seeks to provide the children of our community with educational experiences that enhance their development from birth to graduation and promote dynamic research, collaborative partnerships and innovative practices.

To learn more about or tour the new Porter-Leath & University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy in Orange Mound contact the site at (901) 505-0168 or visit

at Friday, March 4, 2022

NEXT Memphis Expands Reach in Shelby County

NEXT Memphis, an early childhood initiative housed at Porter-Leath, added a second cohort of twelve childcare centers that will participate in its shared services program model. The cohort will join a network of standout centers that will directly increase educational outcomes for children, family-level outcomes for parents, business viability, and overall childcare center quality. Participating centers are:

All participating centers were selected based upon rigorous evaluation of existing practices, as well as having demonstrable passion for children and families, willingness to innovate and alter business paradigms, established history in serving high need neighborhoods, and in-depth viewpoints and approaches to excellence.

Additionally, NEXT Memphis now supports Family Day Homes across Shelby County to provide wraparound services, Instructional Coaching, Human Resources and business automation tools. “NEXT Memphis is excited to continue our growth. The leaders at each of these child care centers and family day homes represent some of the most passionate, and community-driven minds in our city. We are honored to support them as they do the great work of preparing children for Kindergarten, and supporting families with the care and resources needed to thrive,” said Chloe Moore, NEXT Memphis Program Director.
The initiative plans to serve 80 partners in Shelby County by the Summer of 2022.

NEXT Memphis Background
NEXT Memphis was developed as a shared-service program model that helps independent childcare providers reduce costs and improve outcomes so that they can direct more of their attention and resources to the classroom and families. The initiative draws on Porter-Leath’s experience of helping ensure that more children enter kindergarten ready to learn, that more families are thriving, and that childcare professionals have the resources and care they need to grow in their profession. Through NEXT Memphis, families have access to wraparound services, helping parents set and achieve goals and connecting them with community resources.

Learn more about NEXT Memphis at

Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program Partners with the University of Notre Dame

Recently, Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program established a partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). LEO helps a cohort of service providers across the nation apply scientific evaluation methods to better understand and share effective poverty interventions with the goal of using research to positively impact people.The partnership matches top researchers with passionate leaders in the social service sector to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective, and scalable programs and policies that help people move permanently out of poverty.

For over 20 years, Porter-Leath has used data to drive organizational decision making and to create highly effective services and resources for families in the Mid-South. By collaborating with LEO, Porter-Leath is able to refine the work of our Teacher Excellence Program and enhance the program’s positive outcomes for both early childhood educators and their classrooms. The project’s research design centers on the effect of the Teacher Excellence Program’s teacher coaching on student academic outcomes, as well as changes in the relative performance of higher and lower income students.

Early childhood eductors from classrooms operated by Porter-Leath and those who recieve professional development in one of the NEXT Memphis partnering childcare centers will be randomly assigned to either the control group or the treatment group for one year after which Notre Dame faculty and staff will work to determine the effectiveness of the program services.
The randomized research design will enhance the validity of the resulting data. The control group will maintain access to professional development tools and coaching, while the treatment group will recieve a large range of instructional coaching tools and resources from the Teacher Excellence Program.

By applying rigorous evaluation to the Teacher Excellence Program, Porter-Leath will be better equipped to allocated limited resources. It will also potentially deepen the case for support of enhanced professional development for early childhood educators, as well as early childhood interventions that reduce the “achievement gap” for children from lower socio-economic environments.

Contact Marilyn Donaldson at to learn more about the Teacher Excellence Program.

Porter-Leath Expands Access to High-Quality Preschool for All Families

Porter-Leath recently expanded its Early Childhood Education options for all families by offering a tuition option for preschool children ages birth to 5 years old. This newly added option operates parallel to the Agency’s publicly funded educational and social services through Early Head Start and First 8 Memphis. Porter-Leath accepts child care certificate from Tennessee’s Department of Human Services and also offers scholarships for families who may need
assistance with tuition.

For the first time in the agency’s history of providing preschool services, Porter-Leath is able to reach beyond Memphis to serve children from the tri-state area of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. Utilizing a tuition model allows all families access Porter-Leath’s high-quality early education, social services and emotional development without restrictions on their
annual household income levels or socioeconomic backgrounds.

Porter-Leath Preschool offers the same amenities as the agency’s federal and state-funded programs, including fulfilling the State of Tennessee’s requirements of preschool quality standards. These standards include early learning and development curriculum support, highly trained teachers, staff professional development, class size of 20 students or less, staff-child ratio 1:10 or better, continuous quality improvement systems, and access to vision, hearing, speech, and health screening with follow up referrals for support on site if needed.

Having an array of early childhood options can be critical for some families. For example, Mrs. Walton has two grandchildren that are a part of Porter-Leath’s early childhood education program, ten-month old Nakita in Early Head Start and three-year old David in Preschool. David came from a child care center that was not able to assist Mrs. Walton with critical behavior therapy resources without extensive out-of-pocket costs. As a result, David missed several days of classroom instruction at his previous school because of changes in his temperament. Once at Porter-Leath, David thrived by receiving services at no cost to his grandmother through in house resources from partners like Le Bonheur LEAD
and University of Memphis and weekly play therapy at Kindred Place. Mrs. Walton not only appreciates the patience that Porter-Leath staff provides with David’s different behavioral changes, she is thankful that he and his sister can attend both programs in one convenient location.

Services available in addition to a curriculum based preschool education include hot nutritious meals, extended drop-off and pickup hours, 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., year-round classroom instruction and parent meeting and activities, so that families continue to receive resources to achieve their goals and dreams. In most Porter-Leath Preschool locations, education and family services are available to children ages 2-4 years. The newest Porter-Leath and University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy in Orange Mound will offer services to children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old beginning in January 2022.

With five locations across the city and a sixth currently under construction, Porter-Leath is continuing to develop ways to better serve families in our community.

To learn more about Porter-Leath Preschool visit or call (901) 577-2500.

Family Uses Instagram to Spread their Love for Early Literacy

Gerald Fanion IV age three years old LOVES books, often snuggling them as he sleeps each night. His mother, Dr. Sha Fanion, a former elementary school principal and current educational leadership coach, is passionate about literacy. Dr. Fanion read to Gerald in utero and she and her husband have not stopped reading to him since he was born! In fact, she immediately signed Gerald up to receive books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library through Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth program.

“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Students become readers on the laps of their parents.’ The more you expose children to books, the more they will gravitate towards books … The love of reading starts at home” she said. Gerald Fanion III also helps to develop his son’s love for reading. He checks the mail each day and when the monthly book arrives, Mr. Fanion announces it as he enters the house. This gesture signals to his son that reading and books are something that should spark excitement. The Fanions encourage Gerald IV to wait until bedtime to open his newest book, further building their son’s anticipation to open the new story.

The Fanions also spread their love of literacy with others. When Dr. Fanion was pregnant with Gerald, she asked for books as her baby shower gifts. As she read with Gerald, she would often post a picture on Facebook of what they were reading. So many people began asking about the books and what titles Dr. Fanion recommended that she created an Instagram account to share Gerald’s reading journey. Today, @geraldivlovesbooks, has over 2,200 followers and is a great way to share new and interesting books with other families. His Books from Birth selections are included in his library’s rotation of featured titles!

Dr. Fanion encourages parents to enroll their children in Books from Birth, citing the accessibility and quality as major benefits for parents. She explained that literacy skills can build vocabulary, writing, language and critical thinking skills, so it is foundational to students’ confidence and success. “The lack of access to books is a huge equity issue … this program is a great way to help bridge that gap,” she said. Dr. Fanion added “Whether you can afford to buy books or not, they are coming every month … if you can sign up, absolutely do it.”

at Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Porter-Leath Hiring Event - December 9th

Porter-Leath Hiring Event - December 9th at 2869 Park Avenue, Memphis, TN 38114

Porter-Leath is investing more in top talent than ever before! If you havn’t checked us out lately or are new to Porter-Leath, consider starting a great career serving children and families throughout Memphis and Shelby County. We offer:

  • New, Higher Starting Pay Scales
  • $1,500 Sign On Bonus
  • Comprehensive Benefits Package
  • Inclusive Work Culture
  • Professional Development Programs
  • Best-in-class Early Childhood Facilities

While we have great opportunities across our organization, we have specific needs today for Preschool & Early Head Start Teachers, Assistant Teachers and Residential Monitors. Porter-Leath will be receiving resumés and give on site interviews. Our HR team will be there to answer questions about Porter-Leath's generous benefits, high-quality facilities and positive workplace culture.

Give yourself a holiday gift by exploring open positions at a workplace with a positive and supportive culture, strong benefits package and a generous sign on bonus! Contact Patrice Berry, HR Recruiter, at with questions, or if you are unable to attend the event but would like more information.

(PRO TIP: Get a jump on the application process by viewing open positions and uploading your employment documents at

at Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Family Finds Support from Parent Educator During One of Life’s Most Difficult Times


The bond between a parent educator and a caregiver is special. Ethel Gallaher first met Porter-Leath Parent Educator, Angela Lee, when she visited the house to meet with Mrs. Gallaher’s daughter, Sharonda Carruthers and two grandsons, D’Kylynn and DeLynn. 

Sharonda enrolled her family into Porter-Leath Cornerstone in 2019 to help her two little boys prepare for Kindergarten. Cornerstone pairs caregivers with parent educators who use an evidence-based curriculum called Parents as Teachers to offer support in building positive parent-child interaction and to ensure children meet developmental milestones. When Sharonda’s work schedule prevented her from attending the bimonthly home visits with Angela, Mrs. Gallaher stepped in as their caregiver, so that the boys could continue to benefit from the program’s services. 

As a former educator, Mrs. Gallaher knew that her grandsons would benefit from practicing foundational learning skills and loved that Porter-Leath was willing to come to her home. She explained, “Growing up, I wish I had this kind of program for myself with my mom, so doing it for the kids, it has been really helpful to me to keep them motivated.” The youngest brother, D’Kylynn, is also on the autism spectrum, so Angela brought Mrs. Gallaher tools and resources that could help him develop positive social skills. 

Sadly, in May 2021, the boys mother, Sharonda, passed away from COVID-19 at age 42, and Mrs. Gallaher and her husband become the primary caregivers for the two boys. Angela partnered with the family to survive a very difficult time. She helped Mrs. Gallaher navigate new technology when the boys had online learning and ensured the boys had access to age-appropriate toys, school supplies, books, and even grief counseling. 

D’Kylynn and DeLynn - now ages 4 and 6 years old - continue to live with their grandparents and look forward to seeing what new activity or lesson ‘Ms. Lee’ might bring on her next visit. Beautifully, Mrs. Gallaher and Angela have developed a tight bond, communicating regularly to talk about the boys, life, and how Porter-Leath can offer continued support. As the boys age out of the program, she intends on staying in touch with Angela to report on the the boys’ progress. Mrs. Gallaher counts Angela among her family members, which is high praise coming from a woman who feircely loves her family! 

If you or someone you know might benefit from home visitation serices, visit Porter-Leath Cornerstone at to learn more and reach out!

at Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Long Journey to Success for a Former Sarah’s Place Youth

At the young age of 15, Cristen was placed into Porter-Leath’s Sarah’s Place program. Cristen’s turn-around success story can inspire anyone who has faced hardship in life. Before coming to Sarah’s Place, Cristen was in junior high and began to sell drugs in order to help his mother pay the bills. Eventually, his mother was evicted, leaving Cristen homeless and searching for friends to stay with for days at a time. After getting into a car accident that put him in the hospital, Cristen began a short path that led him to Sarah’s Place for a 6-month stay. Sarah’s Place turned Cristen in the direction of a successful life through independent living programs and the job development programs, while Cristen was simultaneously able to earn several certifications, such as his GED. When interviewed about how Porter-Leath and Sarah’s Place affected his life Cristen said, “Because of the tools given to me at Porter-Leath, I’ve never been arrested, and I’ve always kept employment and a roof over my head.” Cristen has now found his passion in the food & restaurant business where he is currently working to expand his skills and saving to open his own business. Cristen’s goal is to use his experience to inspire and mentor children that are in the same situation he was able to grow from to become the successful man he is today. 

Porter-Leath Foster Grandparent Makes Impact through Time Spent Volunteering

“Listen to your teacher, and listen to  your parents. I love you all, and I’ll see you tomorrow!” This is how Maxine Nolan leaves her classroom of 22 children at John P. Freeman Optional School after every day. She is an AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer and spends her weekdays connecting with children and mentoring them to help build confidence and life skills. 

Five years ago after retiring from a local hospital, Mrs. Nolan became an AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer through Porter-Leath’s Generations program, and has relished every minute of her experience. 

Monday through Friday, she serves in a classroom of students she calls “her children,” and cheerfully assists the teacher each day, talking with the children and offering them words of encouragement. She found that some children just need some attention, and she is more than happy to give them hers through her reassuring words and hugs. 

Volunteering isn’t new to Mrs. Nolan. As she explains, “I’ve always volunteered. My grandmother volunteered too, so it’s just in my genes.” Like her grandmother, Mrs. Nolan passes down her love for volunteering to others. She gathers friends and family to volunteer downtown at Thanksgiving. 

Since her children are all grown and have moved to other cities, she looks forward to seeing “her children” in the classroom. She says that it brightens her day, and she likes to return the favor by greeting students with a cheerful smile and a “Good morning!” when they arrive for class. However, what is most rewarding to Mrs. Nolan is the chance to see how students mature in behavior and academic skills from the beginning to the end of the school year. It fills her heart with joy to hear them show respect by using the magic words like “excuse me,” “thank you”, and “please,” and to see them master tying their own shoe after the many lessons she has given them. 

These brief moments help her know that she has made an impact on the next generation. “I won’t forget these children, and I’m quite sure they won’t forget me!”

at Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Enrollment, Employment and Education Extravaganza

Porter-Leath will host a series of student and employee recruitment fairs:

Sept. 21st - Porter-Leath Early Childhood Center | American Way
4207 American Way, Memphis, TN 38118
5:00 - 7:00 PM

Sept. 27st - Benjamin L. Hooks Library
3030 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38111
2:00 - 6:00 PM

Oct. 8th - Porter-Leath Early Childhood Academy | Frayser
3060 Baskin, Memphis, TN 38127
3:00 - 7:00 PM

Porter-Leath is seeking teachers, assistant teachers, and family service workers. Candidates will be eligible for sign-on bonuses starting at $750 for full-time positions and $250 for part-time positions. Benefits include competitive salaries, medical, dental and vision insurance plans, career advancement opportunities, an employer match to 401k contributions, and a team-based work environment. Candidates should arrive masked and professionally dressed, with a resumé, and be prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position. To view current job openings, please visit

Porter-Leath Preschool is enrolling children ages 2 to 4 years old for high-quality early childhood education at five locations in Memphis. In addition to competitive tuition rates, Porter-Leath Preschool accepts DHS Child Care certificates. Early Childhood staff will be on hand to answer questions about services offered, and to walk caregivers through enrollment. To learn more about Porter-Leath Preschool visit

The recruitment event will also host ShotRx who will be administering COVID vaccines and the Delta Health Alliance to help educate and share facts about COVID-19 vaccines.
at Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust Announces Porter-Leath as Partner School

Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST) is announcing Porter-Leath as a partner school and a new option for future MOST scholarship students. Students who receive scholarships through MOST and graduate from Porter-Leath Preschool can carry the scholarship forward to their next school. 

“Porter-Leath’s attentiveness to early childhood learning translates into their students going on to excel in Kindergarten through 12th grades. We are proud to add them to our fantastic list of partner schools and look forward to watching the students succeed,” said Abbey Cowens, Executive Director of Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust.

“Porter-Leath is extremely honored to work with such an incredible and like-minded organization as MOST. Both of our missions run toward a common goal of providing access to quality education. This is just another way that Porter-Leath is living its promise to help provide the best early childhood experience to every child, regardless of zip code or income. This collaboration will deliver a positive impact for children, their families, and their future education,” said Karen Harrell, Porter-Leath Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Services.

Together, MOST and Porter-Leath will give children’s families an opportunity that might not have been available without this partnership, and will ensure children receive high-quality education beginning in preschool.

About Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust
Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST) believes that every child deserves an equal opportunity to receive the education that best fits their needs. By providing need-based scholarships, MOST strives to help bridge the educational gap in Memphis.
at Monday, September 20, 2021

Porter-Leath to Host Two-Day Employee Recruitment Fair

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath recently announced that it will host an employee recruitment fair on Thursday, August 5, and Friday, August 6. Porter-Leath is seeking teachers and non-instructional staff to provide high-quality education and social services to children and families in Memphis. Porter-Leath has an immediate need for new team members to fill openings in administration, Early Head Start, NEXT Memphis, preschool, and social services.

Porter-Leath’s mission is empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. Its professional team brings vital early childhood resources and family services to local children, educators and families. Porter-Leath offers competitive salaries, professional development plans, career advancement opportunities, 401k and a team-based work environment. A sign-on bonus is also available for open positions.

The job fair is Thursday, August 5, from 2pm-6pm, and Friday, August 6, from 10am-2pm at Porter-Leath, 3400 Prescott Road; 38118. Candidates should arrive masked and professionally dressed, with a resumé, and be prepared for an onsite interview should they qualify for a position. For more information, email Patrice Berry at

Recognized as a Top Mid-Size Workplace by WorkplaceDynamics and The Commercial Appeal, Porter-Leath offers team members the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and families on a daily basis.

For other job openings, please visit

at Monday, August 2, 2021

Porter-Leath Encourages Community to Foster Love this June

Porter-Leath is seeking foster parents who can provide safe and loving homes for children from unstable environments. Children qualify for foster care when they have been removed from their home due to neglect, abuse, homelessness or other challenges.

Currently, there are over 8,800 children in Tennessee’s foster care system – 1,100 of which are here in Shelby County. Foster parents can help children maintain vital connections and often keep sibling groups together. The greatest need is with teenagers.

“Foster parents can provide stability during difficult times in children’s lives,” said Porter-Leath’s President, Sean Lee. “We need more individuals and families who are willing to open their homes and provide Shelby County children the care and safety they need to thrive.”

Since its inception in 1850, Porter-Leath has cared for children without stable families, while continually broadening its programs to fill the community’s needs. The primary goals of Porter-Leath’s foster care program are children’s health, safety, and permanency achieved through either reunification with biological family or adoption.

Once an applicant has been approved, they will complete TN KEY (Knowledge Empowers You). KEY is Porter-Leath’s training program to help meet the needs of foster children, understand their feelings of loss, and identify parenting strategies for success. To learn more about how to become a Porter-Leath foster parent, please contact Lisa Arnold by calling (901) 577-2500 ext. 1179.

at Monday, June 14, 2021

Porter-Leath Continues Preschool Programming after Shelby County Schools Destroys Nationally-Renowned Early Childhood Education Partnership

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath will continue providing preschool services for children and families in the upcoming school year, while SCS chooses to absorb additional dollars that could be used to support children and families. SCS has continually decreased Head Start funding available to Porter-Leath, making continued operations in Porter-Leath centers using Head Start resources impossible without significant cuts that would diminish quality and increase risks to health and safety for children, families, and staff. Despite ongoing negotiations, Porter-Leath learned on a statewide phone call from SCS staff that the District will end the partnership at the conclusion of the current contract, which ends June 30, 2021.

Porter-Leath Preschool will continue to use its high-quality programming model and structure. Eligible families will be able to access State of Tennessee Department of Human Services resources—and for the first time, Porter-Leath Preschool will also be open to any family with preschool-age children at the following locations:

  • American Way Preschool & Early Head Start (4207 American Way) - 170 children 
  • Cottonwood Preschool (5221 Cottonwood Road) - 156 children
  • Early Childhood Academy (628 Alice Avenue) - 142 children
  • Early Childhood Academy in Frayser (3060 Baskin Street) - 170 children
  • Frayser Preschool and Early Head Start (3274 Range Line Road) - 88 children
  • Porter-Leath and University of Memphis Early Childhood Academy (opens January 2022) - 268 children

The Porter-Leath and SCS partnership solidified Shelby County as a national leader in providing high-quality early childhood services. Accomplishments include $49.5M in private funding raised by Porter-Leath for the construction of four state-of-the-art Early Childhood Academies along with increased school readiness results, with end-of-year scores now consistently in the 72% to 82% range vs. 61% prior to the start of the Head Start partnership in 2014. Porter-Leath was commended in a national statement by then-Director of Head Start Dr. Deborah Bergeron, for its partnerships across Early Head Start, Head Start, and Child Care Partnerships as a leading example in the United States. 

Porter-Leath elevated early childhood outcomes in Shelby County by creating and implementing the Teacher Excellence Program (TEP) in 2017 to improve the skills and teaching practices of educators, including SCS teachers and teachers in local preschools and childcare classrooms. Private funds were raised by Porter-Leath in 2020 to allow each TEP Instructional Coach to obtain their Certificate in Early Education Leadership from the Zaentz Professional Learning Academy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Porter-Leath raised $160,000 to conduct community-wide research of the early childhood workforce by Bellwether Education Partners. The research informs long-term strategies to attract more professionals into early childhood positions in Memphis. Porter-Leath connected Memphis with numerous national partnerships to meet children’s developmental, physical and emotional needs. Partnerships include Momentous Institute, LENA, and Sesame Street in Communities which provide evidence-based resources, strategies and support for educators and caregivers. 

SCS’s total Head Start grant has increased from $20.1M in 2014 to $25.6M today and the District has discretion on how to spend it to meet Head Start standards. Over the last seven years, Porter-Leath's Head Start grant has fallen $701,000 while SCS' budget for Head Start has increased $4.5M. This means that SCS has kept a rising amount of the Head Start funding for administration of the grant while shorting services and vital resources for families.

“We were not included in the Reimagine 901 Plan by the District, but had responded to three issued, then canceled, RFPs from the District. We remained in negotiations with SCS, including Superintendent Dr. Ray directly, and were appalled to learn indirectly of the District’s move on a statewide phone call this morning,” said Sean Lee, Porter-Leath President. SCS is walking away from millions of dollars of private investment in infrastructure and quality improvement, but Porter-Leath will continue to utilize those investments to serve families going forward. We know that the best place for children and families is with Porter-Leath.”

Porter-Leath Board of Directors Chair, Jason Dombroksi shared “This is a disappointing development in light of the seven years of what we believed to be partnership and after Porter-Leath’s dedicated efforts to bring capital and innovation to Shelby County’s investment in early childhood services. Despite lack of communication, engagement, and professionalism from SCS, we are committed to serving children and families using our proven best-practices in early childhood education.” 

Porter-Leath Response to SCS Press Release Issued Thursday, June 10th:

  • The annual Porter-Leath contract services 3200 children under the Head Start contract: 1520 in full service, and 1680 in wraparound services. This can be verified by Porter-Leath’s contract with the District. Additionally, Porter-Leath serves 600 children through Fund I and 120 children through VPK.

  • Porter-Leath requested the true cost of services for Head Start. Over time, Porter-Leath’s reimbursement contract with SCS has declined, while SCS has absorbed federal increases, with no difference in number of children served or scope of services. The total grant has increased to $25.6M, while Porter-Leath’s share has decreased from $16.7M to $16.03M since 2014. The number of children served by the grant has remained the same each year:

  • Porter-Leath is not offering fewer services. The only change in service proposed was that SCS would pay health care providers instead of Porter-Leath. Porter-Leath would continue to coordinate health services.

  • There will be a major disruption of services for children and families, as SCS will immediately lose five centers owned or leased by Porter-Leath that serve 1,000 children and families each year.

  • Porter-Leath agrees that SCS is out of compliance with Head Start and was trying to help bring the District into compliance. SCS treated Porter-Leath as a subrecipient of HHS funds and is thus obligated to pay Porter-Leath’s federally approved indirect cost rate. Head Start standards require SCS to pay Porter-Leath’s federally approved indirect cost rate of 13.4%. SCS agreed to fund this percentage, but required equal cuts elsewhere in the budget to maintain the total overall cost.

  • SCS Pre-K Growth outcomes represent results achieved directly by Porter-Leath for 3920 children, who are included in the 5,600 children cited by SCS:

    • Separately, Instructional Support gains are the result of Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program investments, which provides practice-based coaching and evidence-based support for early childhood educators.

Porter-Leath Statement on Head Start Compliance

Porter-Leath is focused on providing a high quality early childhood option for children. While doing so, we also must correct the record being given around compliance.

The compliance issue mentioned by SCS during negotiations with Porter-Leath and agreed to by Porter-Leath's attorney was solely with the way SCS created the contract with Porter-Leath. SCS chose from 2014-2021 to treat Porter-Leath as a contractor when it was actually a federal subrecipient. The audit referenced in media reports was a District-hired consultant who audited the District's contract (not Porter-Leath) and determined SCS was out of compliance with its contract. While both parties agreed that the contract was out of compliance, there was not agreement on the method the District proposed to fix their noncompliance, which was to first eliminate many positions and indirect costs and then to limit them to only 3.6%. This left too large a quality gap that we would have to fund raise for Porter-Leath to say yes to the offer. Prior statements about Porter-Leath being the sole cause of the District having to recompete for the grant in 2019 are also not accurate to the District's own 2015 report to the SCS Board indicating nine (9) total Grantee deficiences and four (4) additional non-compliance items - all 13 of which were in SCS owned facilities. 

Porter-Leath was an excellent partner for Shelby County Schools throughout the seven years as evidenced by the District's efforts to first award Porter-Leath the Head Start RFP and then spend days attempting to negotiate a new contract. To state now that somehow Porter-Leath's performance was not up to standard is unfortunate and unfounded.

Porter-Leath's Next Steps

Porter-Leath is proud to continue serving the Memphis community using its innovative and research-based best practices.

All children and families deserve access to high-quality early childhood services, and that is exactly what Porter-Leath has proven it can deliver. As Shelby County Schools continues to repeat the same inaccurate statements and disrupt families, Porter-Leath stands by the information and facts that we have previously shared and is currently enrolling families for the upcoming academic year. 

Porter-Leath’s quality and outcomes are indisputable and our preschool sites are prepared for an outstanding school year beginning in August. Staff members look forward to seeing next year’s students and would love to host any family who is looking for the best preschool option for their two to four year old child on a tour of our locations. To enroll your child, please visit or call 901-577-2500 x 1146.

at Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Commitment to Infant Mental Health

As the Early Success Coalition works to build the capacity of the early childhood workforce, a key priority is advancing the understanding of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health through professional development for healthcare providers, early childhood educators, childcare providers and home visitors. 
Infants and very young children are all too often left out of conversations around mental health, but early experiences and environments can affect emotional well-being across a lifespan. Exposure to toxic stress can have a disruptive impact on a young child’s brain, resulting in the potential for lifelong physical and mental health issues. 

The Early Success Coalition takes a number of different approaches to address needs related to early mental well-being. To address the shortage of healthcare providers who are trained in infant and early childhood mental health practices we provide workshops and advocate for the integration of these practices into a wide range of environments that reach young children and their families.  o advance knowledge of best practices in infant mental health, we have also provided over 50 hours of training this year for teachers, home visitors, and childcare providers, who often work in conjunction with parent and young children.

Early identification and intervention can mitigate the negative effects of toxic stress and promote better outcomes, so we partner with pediatric clinics to provide screenings for key factors that affect early emotional health, such as positive parent-child relationships. 

We provide childcare centers, pediatric clinics, and home visiting programs with social-emotional resources that can be distributed to parents to assist them in creating a positive environment that fosters healthy child development. Through these methods, we are working hard to ensure that all children experience safe and nurturing relationships to promote positive mental health.

Visit to learn more about the work of the Early Success Coalition  and its members or contact Kellie Mitchell, Early Success Coalition Director at

Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Recognizes Porter-Leath Staff member with the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy Award

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth honored several Tennesseans this week for their efforts on behalf of children.

Awards were presented at the agency’s annual Children’s Advocacy Days event, which serves as an opportunity for children’s advocates, service providers and others to come together to listen to speakers, leaders and peers who share the goal of improving outcomes for children, youth and families.

Of the five honorees that were recognized, one was from Porter-Leath! Sandra Allen, a founding board member and former president of the Association of Infant Mental Health in Tennessee, was awarded the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy award. Allen serves as the senior adviser to the Early Success Coalition.

Recordings from the 2021 event can be found at

at Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Opening Soon: New Early Childhood Academy in Frayser

Porter-Leath to host virtual Grand Opening on March 26

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath is proud to announce the upcoming opening of its newest Early Childhood Academy which will house preschool children ages six weeks to five and Porter-Leath’s Teacher Excellence Program. Made possible by community partners committed to high-quality early education for all Shelby County children regardless of ZIP code, the Early Childhood Academy in Frayser is a state-of-the-art preschool and teacher training institute that will provide comprehensive early childhood education and support for 248 students, as well as professional training and development for preschool teachers and early childhood educators in the area. A virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on March 26 at 10 am and will be livestreamed to Porter-Leath’s Facebook page ( and YouTube channel.

"We are excited to celebrate the grand opening of our newest Early Childhood Academy in Frayser,” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “This incredible space continues our model that brings together the very best people, programming and partners to improve the lives of children and their families throughout Shelby County.”

More About the Early Childhood Academy in Frayser

Built by Flintco and designed by national early learning facility specialist RDG Planning and Design, the 16-classroom, 35,501-square-foot facility will serve 248 students as the second in a series of four new early childhood academies. Like the first Early Childhood Academy in South Memphis opened in 2017, the Early Childhood Academy in Frayser is a model of excellence for the education of young children, weaving local culture, history and geography into safe, inviting spaces that encourage play and exploration. Its child-friendly architecture utilizes natural light, musical elements, lush landscapes and bright colors that enrich learning opportunities.

Children who enter Kindergarten on track to achieve grade-level reading by the third are nearly five times more likely to graduate high school. The Academy’s programming is built on evidence-based Early Head Start and Head Start models that are bolstered by supportive wraparound services and training programming to ensure Kindergarten readiness. The result is the highest-quality preschool setting for area children and families.

Academy Location:
3060 Baskin Street,
Memphis, TN 38127

The Teacher Excellence Program

The Early Childhood Academy in Frayser will include a laboratory teacher training center to equip early childhood educators with valuable skills that enhance teacher effectiveness, increase student achievement, and maximize classroom and family engagement. Developed in partnership with Shelby County Schools, the Teacher Excellence Program will use the expanded space in Frayser to further its mission of providing high-quality professional development and coaching for preschool teachers at Porter-Leath as well as for teachers throughout Shelby County—including Shelby County Schools, the Achievement School District, First 8, charter operators and private day home/care operators.

In addition to classroom learning, mentorship and lectures from guest speakers, a team of highly-trained Relief Teachers will be used to relieve Teachers in classrooms so that they can attend intensive professional development at the newest academy. Resources for the Teacher Excellence Program at the Early Childhood Academy in Frayser will include a training center, observation bays, and audio/video technology.

Executive Leadership

  • Sean Lee: President
  • Karen Harrell: Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Services
  • Dr. Kelley Nichols: Vice President of Teacher Excellence
  • Towanda Peete-Smith: Head Start Director
  • Sheronda Smith: Early Head Start Director

Other Early Childhood Academy Locations

Along with its newest location in the Frayser neighborhood, Porter-Leath’s Early Childhood Program also oversees the operation of its original Early Childhood Academy—opened in 2017—at 628 Alice Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106.

Two additional Early Childhood Academies are anticipated to open by 2022, each incorporating the Teacher Excellence Program and designed to empower children and families to achieve healthy, optimal and independent lifestyles.

Porter-Leath Expands Successful Cornerstone Program to Fayette County

Service supports young families with evidence-based Parents as Teachers (PAT) curriculum

Porter-Leath is excited to announce that its Cornerstone program is now available to families in Fayette County. Using the evidence-based Parents as Teachers (PAT) curriculum, Cornerstone is an early childhood visitation program that works directly with prenatal mothers, as well as families with children from birth to age 5. Certified Parent Educators meet with caregivers and families twice a month to give newborns and preschool children the best start in life by providing educational and developmentally appropriate activities and tools.

“We are thrilled to bring the Cornerstone program to families in Fayette County,” said Kim Thomas, Cornerstone Manager. “The services this program provides have been a proven difference-maker in the lives of parents and young children.” By helping parents become their child’s first teacher, the program builds healthy caregiver-child relationships, and enables families to support the physical, mental and emotional development of their child. 

The bi-monthly visits are voluntary, provided at no cost to families and are currently available in a virtual format. The curriculum includes topics such as preventative health, healthy parenting practices and self-sufficiency. The program also provides monthly caregiver meetings to give parents an opportunity to network with other families and learn more about community resources.

Learn more at To enroll, contact Kim Thomas at or (901) 577-2500 ext. 1019

at Thursday, March 4, 2021

Porter-Leath Announces New CFO: Nonprofit Veteran Paul Makris

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering children and families, is proud to welcome Paul Makris to the organization as its new Chief Financial Officer. “We are thrilled to welcome Paul to the team.” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “His business acumen and commitment to nonprofit work make him a perfect fit for our organization.”

Paul Makris named new CFO of Porter-Leath

With 15 years as a C-level executive and 13 years in nonprofit leadership, Makris brings passion and know-how that will be instrumental to Porter-Leath’s mission and continued organizational growth. Holding an MBA and a BSBA from the University of Arkansas, he is the former CFO of West Cancer Center PC. Makris also served as CFO at Christ Community Health Services and CFO and Executive Director of Operations at Christ United Methodist Church.

“It is an honor to be joining a nonprofit institution that provides high-quality resources and services for local children and families,” said Paul Makris. “I am excited to support Porter-Leath’s mission and contribute to its legacy of success.”

Porter-Leath is a $44M agency with 660 employees, which serves 50,000+ children and families each year. Its finance team maintains fully funded programs through budgeting, accounting and reporting of public and private resources. As CFO, Makris will play a key role in sustaining services by managing complex revenue streams and providing strategic financial management for the agency.

at Thursday, February 11, 2021

United Way of the Mid South Offers Free Tax Prep in Collaboration with Le Boneheur and Early Success Coalition

Beginning Monday, January 18, United Way of the Mid-South will launch our 19th year of our Free Tax Preparation program, in conjunction with the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.  We will again prepare and file taxes -- for free -- for low-to-moderate income families. Providing IRS-certified tax preparers, our Free Tax Prep program helps eligible Mid-Southerners -- individuals and families whose household income was below $57,000 in 2020 -- take advantage of every applicable deduction, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  Helping customers achieve economic mobility, a goal of our United Way, our Free Tax Prep program allows individuals to have additional dollars to use at their discretion, by passing up private and commercial tax preparers with huge fees, by paying nothing to get assistance with filing, and by receiving and keeping the entire amount of their refunds.   

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring and in consideration of the health and well-being of both tax preparers and tax filers seeking help with their tax returns, United Way of the Mid-South innovated its process to minimize face-to-face tax preparation, by implementing a creative, low-risk alternative - a Drive-Thru Drop-Off solution. Having received national recognition from the IRS Commissioner and United Way Worldwide, this same method will be used for the 2021 tax season. Filers can walk or drive through Free Tax Prep locations and receive quality tax preparation and assistance with how to best utilize their refunds.

“Economic mobility is a pivotal factor in addressing generational poverty,” said Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., President and CEO, United Way of the Mid-South. “So, it’s important that Mid-Southerners understand how to file their taxes correctly to ensure they get the most out of their returns, especially when an even larger portion of our community is facing financial hardship during the pandemic. More than ever, our United Way feels compelled to help our neighbors avoid predatory fees, claim maximal tax credits, and keep every dollar they receive in refunds. No doubt, this will truly assist low-to-moderate income families in moving “from where they are to where they dream to be.”

This year, United Way of the Mid-South is partnering with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Porter-Leath’s Early Success Coalition on a newly created Tax Impact Project (TIP). TIP will use the combined resources of Le Bonheur, Early Success Coalition and our United Way to reach the largest customer base possible in the Memphis area. By allowing United Way’s Free Tax Prep/VITA program to add additional mobile tax prep sites, the partnership will provide free tax preparation to more individuals who are eligible for EITC and might have used “paid” preparers in prior years, and will increase the number of unduplicated households receiving EITC refunds annually by 2,000 over three years.

“Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is focused on helping children grow up healthy, safe and well. I am elated that Le Bonheur and our partners are working to ensure families have access to trusted resources and information through Free Tax Prep,” said Michael Wiggins, President and CEO, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “We are committed to helping families learn about and utilize this community resource.”

“The Earned Income Tax Credit has been hailed as one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in American history, and the Early Success Coalition is thrilled to play a part in helping all qualifying Memphians take advantage of this opportunity,” said Kellie Mitchell, Director, Early Success Coalition. “It’s rare to provide a service that puts money directly back in the pockets of local families.  With EITC, we can ensure working parents retain the funds they’ve earned to provide for their children and families at no charge to them.”

United Way’s Free Tax Prep will operate the Drive-Thru (or Walk-Up) Drop-Off model at 23 sites -- five super sites, four mobile sites and 14 partner sites -- where customers can drop off the appropriate documentation and pick up their returns when completed. Filers should bring a photo ID for themselves and their spouses, social security cards and birthdates for themselves, spouses and dependents, all W2s,1099s and information on any other income, total paid to daycare and the daycare’s tax ID number, and account information for direct deposit. If married filing jointly, both spouses must be present. This socially distanced approach provides a safe and effective way for customers to have their taxes filed by a professional with minimal contact.

To learn more, please visit

Early Success Coalition Connects Families with Community Resource Providers

The Early Success Coalition is a collective impact initiative housed at Porter-Leath that promotes shared, evidence-based practices proven to improve early childhood development and school readiness. (Visit to find out what resources your family could receive!)

The Coalition partners with and promotes agencies and organizations in Shelby County, which provide essential services to families that lead to healthy births, safe and nurturing relationships, and positive educational outcomes for children. 

Despite the pandemic, the Coalition provides parenting classes and delivers counseling and social-emotional guidance for parents served by partner healthcare clinics. Connecting to providers virtually, parents can get guidance on topics like developing relationships with their young children, building language development through “serve and return,” and how to manage postpartum depression. 

Mother and daughter spend quality time bonding, while reading one of their favorite stories.
Mother and daughter spend quality time bonding, 
while reading one of their favorite stories. 

The Coalition also continues to raise awareness of home-visiting and center-based programs through a web-based promotional campaign, ensuring that new and expecting parents have access to resources available to help their family thrive. 

But families are not the only recipients of the Early Success Coalition’s work. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Coalition has also offered over 50 hours of free virtual training to early childhood professionals across Shelby County, strengthening their knowledge and services. 

By connecting over 70 members, representing pediatric and family providers, nonprofit organizations, education systems, and governmental agencies, the Early Success Coalition is able to lift up the work of these agencies and ensure families know about the community resources available to them, especially during these challenging times. 

Parent Educators Find New Ways to Connect with Parents and Caregivers During the Pandemic

The hallmark of Porter-Leath’s Cornerstone program is the connection that parents and families have with their parent educator. Each parent educator has a caseload of 20 families who receive personalized check-in meetings. Families also enroll knowing that they can contact their parent educator at any time with a question or need that may arise between meetings. 

Porter-Leath parent educators transformed their services during the pandemic, while keeping an eye on their goal of preparing caregivers to raise strong families. The check-ins moved online or over the phone, and monthly group connection meetings continue with a few twists! 

Through their virtual visits, parent educators discovered families’ need for social interaction and preschool or kindergarten readiness tools for their children. This September, the Cornerstone program hosted a Drive-Thru Group Connection Parade. “The event helped us formally meet families that enrolled during the pandemic and to see and maintain a connection with our families who have been in the program over the last year or so,” reflected Kim Thomas, Cornerstone Supervisor. 

Parent Educator, Yolanda Touray (Right), and
Cornerstone Supervisor, Kim Thomas (Left)
await families for their first drive-thru event. 

During the drive-thru event parent educators had a quick, face-to-face greeting and provided the families with tools and resources from their evidence-based curriculum, Parents as Teachers. They shared information like ways to keep families healthy through nutritious meals and tips for how to create age specific routines for their children. 

Porter-Leath also gave each child under 5 years old tangible items so caregivers could enhance their parent-child interactions at home and help the child reach developmental milestones in four key areas: cognitive, social-emotional, language and motor skills. For example, children six months and younger received soft washable books, wrist rattles, mats for tummy time, while two and three year old children received lacing/ threading toys, and doodle boards to practice their fine motor skills through writing and drawing. 

The parade garnered such positive feedback that the parent educators hosted another drive-thru event in October. Rather than have parents or children wear costumes for halloween, the parent educators greeted families as their favorite children’s book characters and shared information on early childhood literacy. Families had a blast trying to guess the characters and hearing more about the key messages from each educator’s chosen book! 

Parent Educator, Angela Lee dressed up for her families as her favorite children’s book, Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs by David Soman and Jacky Davis!

Parent Educator, Angela Lee dressed up for
her families as her favorite children’s book,
Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs by David Soman and Jacky Davis!

Easy As 1, 2, 3: A parent’s perspective on what makes Porter-Leath special

Myrika Williford took her volunteer role on Porter-Leath’s Preschool Parent Council seriously. As a representative for Early Head Start, Myrika provided feedback from parents to the site manager and worked collaboratively with members of the council and Porter-Leath staff to make decisions that affect the Preschool Program. 

She is also on a mission to educate parents on why it is important to volunteer in their child’s classroom and to recruit new families to enroll in Porter-Leath. 

“I encourage parents to look into Porter-Leath because they have a lot to offer. I tell parents, it is not a daycare, it is a school. We do it the Porter-Leath way, meaning that the kids don’t play all day they learn!” she said. She even created a video of the classroom, so that parents could see their child’s routine. “Parents see their child engaging in the class and are excited to say ‘That’s my child!” she explained. 

Myrika’s children are her personal proof that high-quality early childhood education works. She has three daughters - Rayn, Trinity, and Autumn - one in Early Head Start and two in Head Start at Porter-Leath. 

“My oldest daughter, Autumn, sat down with me one day and asked to read a book,” Myrika described “but before reading the book she stops me and says ‘Mom, look at the cover of the book. The author is the person who writes the book and the illustrator is the person who draws the pictures.’ I couldn’t believe that was coming out of her mouth!” 

The next time she volunteered in the classroom, she recognized Autumn was modeling behavior from her teacher’s process of reading with the class. 

Myrika shared that the consistent high quality of teachers and administration at the different Porter-Leath sites have given her confidence that her children are cared for and that they will be prepared for kindergarten. She has even noticed that Autumn and Trinity have become more independent and will teach Rayn things they learned at school. Amazed, she explained, “If I teach Autumn something new she becomes so excited she will turn to Trinity and will say ‘okay now, we need to focus’ and I can tell she wants to help her sisters grow.” Additionally, Myrika praised Porter-Leath for assigning family service workers to help parents set and reach goals. “My family service worker is awesome,” Myrika exclaimed “She provides counsel and checks on me mentally, physically, emotionally to make sure I can give my best to my girls.” 

Myrika’s key piece of advice to parents regarding Preschool: “Do not hold your child back. You will be amazed at what your child can do once you give them an opportunity to go to school. And I would say check out Porter-Leath, of course!” 

Brianna Stewart: A Books from Birth Graduate’s Perspective on Reading and Learning

The Stewart family readily admits that reading is just part of their routine. Like packing their lunches for the next day or placing their backpacks by the door, the Stewart girls know that they can count on choosing a book to read with their parents before bedtime. Ebonye Stewart shared that these brief times of connection is particularly helpful to her as she raises her oldest daughter, Brianna. “Reading is a time when we are actually able to sit down for a few minutes and bond as a family,” she explained.

“If I know something is on her mind, I will let her pick out a book and as we read the story, I can ask her questions which segue into learning about what she might be thinking.”
Brianna, a third grader, is a voracious reader. She described why reading early in life has been beneficial as she continues to grow and learn. “It was important for me to read early because it prepared me for school and chapter books and homework. I read for twenty minutes before I go to bed and it is part of my routine,” she remarked.
Ebonye attributed her daughter’s love of books and academic success to reading with Brianna beginning at birth. This routine was supported as Brianna received monthly books
from Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth Program.

Brianna said that it was special to receive the various books that were addressed to her. She now reads with her younger sister, Bailey. She points out pictures and shapes just as Ebonye did with her, and helps Bailey sound out unfamiliar words. Brianna even shares some of her favorite books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, including The Mine-o-saur and Madeline, which in her words, “gives a valuable lesson that sharing is caring.”

Ebonye has seen first hand as both her daughters continue to evolve into strong readers and students. In fact, one of her proudest parent memories was a few years ago when Brianna read and tracked her reading time all summer. At the end of the summer, Brianna had read for so many hours that she was invited to a special children’s reception in Nashville to meet the former Governor and Mrs. Haslam in their home. Ebonye’s advice to parents of young readers would be to figure out a topic your child loves and find a book about it. She added, “Reading is everything! If it is science, if it is math, whatever the subject is you can find a book that interest your children and that will really help them grow.”

Now, Brianna sets goals for herself using her school’s Accelerated Reader program. She challenges herself with longer chapter books and multi-book series. While the Stewart family continues their tradition of reading before bed, they also make time to give back to the Books from Birth Program with their time and financial gifts. “There are a lot of great organizations in Memphis, but this particular one is just so important,” Ebonye stressed. “The ability for children to have access to early literacy tools … can help them increase vocabulary, reading comprehension and if you can read, you can make it through a lot of things.” Indeed, reading can take you far in life. In fact, it just may take you to the Governor’s mansion one day!

Former Sarah’s Place Resident Chooses to Face Life Head On

Jamilla Counts did not have an easy childhood growing up in Chicago. She dealt with abuse and trauma, including witnessing the murder of her own mother. These experiences left her filled with anger and frustration. After losing her biological mother, Jamilla was placed with a foster family, including a woman she called “Mama Strong.” Mama Strong took Jamilla in and eventually they moved to Memphis.

Jamilla’s new home had structure and love, and gave her the opportunity to help in the family business, but she still felt like something was missing inside. Consequently, Jamilla ran away from her foster home when she was a teenager. This rebellion led her to be placed in the state’s custody and housed at Porter-Leath in what is now called Sarah’s Place, a residential facility that provides a safe and nurturing environment, and therapeutic services to children experiencing troubled times.

During her time at Sarah’s Place, Jamilla learned what she calls “survival skills,” and received counseling. She learned responsibility through daily chores; she earned an allowance and learned about budgeting; she even practiced independence by cooking for herself. Her favorite thing to cook was Rice Krispies® Treats, which she still loves!

Jamilla remembered one counselor with whom she felt most comfortable sharing her struggles. This counselor always gave her full attention to Jamilla. A behavior Jamilla mirrored later when she became a substitute teacher. “It’s okay to stop and listen when a child needs your attention because you just might be saving that child’s life,” Jamilla explained.

Jamilla’s experience at Porter-Leath taught her internal strength, good choices, and what she calls “not getting in the way of your own success.” Today, Sarah’s Place continues serving teens and provides individualized treatment plans. Trained counselors provide counseling, as well as training on aggression replacement, self-discipline, and positive relationship building.

Jamilla shares her story, so that individuals struggling with similar trauma can find comfort and hope in connections with others. Jamilla highlighted that, “we must face our demons head-on,” adding, “children must learn at a young age how to address what’s going on inside them – their anger, their frustration, their pain.” She feels that places like Porter-Leath help children release the painful 

Educating the Next Generation: AmeriCorps Member Gains Experience to use in Future Career

Makia Hampton aspires to be a therapist in a local school, so after finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Memphis, she looked for ways to gain experience working with children in an educational setting. “My ultimate goal is to some way, somehow prevent people from becoming statistics” she remarked and added that “getting assistance when you are young … can help people avoid risky behavior later in life.” 

As a native Memphian, Makia looks for ways to pour into the people of Shelby County and being part of Porter-Leath’s AmeriCorps class of 2019 has provided clarity for her future profession. As an AmeriCorps member, Makia provides special enrichment services inside Porter-Leath Preschool classrooms. She visits the classrooms at Covington Pike Head Start a few times each week and pulls students who need extra practice on foundational literacy skills like letter recognition, phonics and vocabulary to work with her individually or in small groups. 

This enrichment has proven to be a positive method for helping those students who may lag behind their peers in literacy scores. In fact, results from testing at the end of the academic year (2018-2019) found that nearly all of the 264 students across Early Head Start, Head Start and Pre-K classrooms who received support from AmeriCorps members demonstrated improvement in their language and/or literacy skills throughout the year. Makia reported that providing extra enrichment time can help children build confidence in the classroom. 

The teachers appreciate the AmeriCorps members’ assistance in the classroom and they have been a great resource and source of seasoned advice for Makia. Her experience with AmeriCorps has helped her learn how to measure the temperaments of various children and how to pivot lessons to address their specific needs. “This is the most important time for a child’s growth,” she said. She believes early childhood sets the tone for children’s behavior, demeanor and academic success. 

The living stipend and educational scholarship provided by the AmeriCorps program has helped Makia pay for next semester of graduate school. She is currently studying Psychology in her graduate program at the University of Memphis and wants to pursue her clinical Ph.D. 

Giving Thanks for Volunteers: Lessons from the Foster Grandparent of the Year

“I want children to grow up and know that they are somebody ... that they are important.” This sentiment is just one of the many reasons why Regina Walker volunteered as a Foster Grandparent. Ms. Walker routinely volunteered her time as a Foster Grandparent for many years.  Granny Walker, her newest moniker, was encouraged by a fellow church member to give back and join Porter-Leath's cadre of Foster Grandparents. She was even named Foster Grandparent of the Year at the 2018 Foster Grandparent Recognition luncheon. Walker, who often chooses to quietly observe the class, while helping the teacher cut, fold or organize, described one of her roles as a modeling respect for the teacher. 

When not preparing materials for the class or sorting assignments into students’ folders, Walker enjoyed helping students with their assignments both one-on-one or in small groups. She recounted one special friendship that formed between her and a  student that needed extra help with work. She mentioned to him one day that he was a super star on the computer! After she recognized his aptitude for computers, she found he would ask her for help when he needed it. Granny Walker enjoys giving students trinkets like pencils and erasers for their birthdays. She uses it as a opportunity to teach students about altruism and gratitude. 

Granny Walker, worked for 21 years at Shelby State Community College (now Southwest Tennessee Community College) and then for the University of Memphis. She always wanted to be a teacher but an an aneurysm and a stroke prevented her from finishing the coursework. Walker views her Foster Grandparent work as a second chance to have an impact on children and the classroom. She views her time with the class as a blessing, and stated “there are so many children who don’t have anyone,” adding that she would not trade her time serving students for any other activity. 

*Note: Foster Grandparents have not been able to be physically in the classroom this academic year because of COVID-19, but hope to return in 2021.*

University of Memphis, Porter-Leath, RedZone to break ground in Orange Mound

The University of Memphis and Porter-Leath are partnering to launch a new, innovative Early Childhood Academy located alongside the Orange Mound neighborhood’s RedZone Ministries. The Academy is designed to help address a critical need for early childhood care in the Memphis community.

 Construction and design plans are being finalized with the support of $15 million raised in private contributions. Groundbreaking is scheduled for November 11th.

The partnership will provide a research-based educational facility to serve children ages 6 weeks through 5 years old, where care is most crucial and underprovided in Shelby County. The Early Childhood Academy will feature state-of-the-art research and observation technology, wraparound services for children and families, child-centered and developmentally appropriate spaces for learning and training facilities for current and prospective early childhood practitioners.

“The University is excited to partner with Porter-Leath and RedZone, and we look forward to extending the University further into the Orange Mound community,” said Sally Parish, UofM associate vice president for educational initiatives. “The impact of this project is significant, not only in providing quality early childhood care and wraparound support for children and families in our community, but also on the research, practice and laboratory education it provides for the field of child development, particularly in urban education settings.”

The site will feature 18 classrooms that will serve nearly 300 local children. The site design has been inspired by the community and neighborhood traditions of Orange Mound. Through intentional design, the space should evoke feelings of community and home with unique features like the addition of a front-porch façade on each classroom that opens into a natural playscape designed to promote play-based learning. 

The Academy will also feature works of local artists in its “Main Street” lobby, as a way to highlight the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Orange Mound. An open proposal process inviting local artists to make presentations for consideration in the academy will be announced soon. 

“Through a partnership with the UofM Child Development & Family Studies program, the Early Childhood Academy will provide a state-of-the-art facility to prepare future early care and learning professionals through observations and in-classroom practice as well as experience working with families of young children,” said Dr. Loretta Rudd, UofM clinical associate professor and program coordinator, Child Development & Family Studies. 

“We expect that graduates of the CDFS Early Care and Learning, Early Intervention Specialist and Pre-School and Childcare Administration degree programs will have a significant impact in the profession given their opportunity to observe and train in this world-class facility.”  

Porter-Leath has been dedicated to empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle for more than 170 years. The agency now serves more than 10,000 children and families each year through their program focus areas that are designed to meet developmental, health and social needs at the earliest opportunity. 

“Porter-Leath is thrilled to partner with the University of Memphis and RedZone Ministries to not only provide world-class facilities, but also deepen our continuum of support for children and families in the Orange Mound neighborhood,” said Sean Lee, Porter-Leath President. "Families will be supported, children will be prepared for kindergarten success, early childhood teachers will be developed and a vital neighborhood will be strengthened by our partnership.” 

A select number of childcare spaces will be reserved at the Early Childhood Academy for UofM students, faculty and staff. The new Center is the latest in a series of additions and expansions to the University Schools educational compendium which seeks to provide the children of our community with educational experiences that enhance their development from birth to graduation and promote dynamic research, collaborative partnerships and innovative practices. Through the addition of this Center, the UofM will reach more than 1,000 children from birth to graduation through five University Schools.

“We are encouraged by our progress and are grateful for the partnerships established with Porter-Leath and the University of Memphis,” said Howard Eddings, RedZone CEO. “As we have creatively worked to be a part of the transformational work that’s taking place in the lives of children, families and the Orange Mound community, we believe this collaboration will certainly be a value add to the neighborhood, serve to build additional assets and will leverage additional resources as well.”

A limited, socially distanced groundbreaking ceremony will be hosted on-site on November 11 at 10 a.m. and will also be made available to the public online. For more information, email

CONTACT: Chuck Gallina | 901.678.1756 l

at Thursday, October 8, 2020

Building Up Our Teachers

Congratulations to Porter-Leath Pre-K teacher, Kimberly Knox, for earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education! Kimberly is excited to work with her children at Memphis Scholars Florida-Kansas this school year as we celebrate her achievement. 

Porter-Leath promotes professional development for all staff through our tuition reimbursement program.

During her studies, Kimberly said she kept her favorite quote nearby which is, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” 

Kimberly will definitely be in style teaching her students this year from her virtual classroom this year!

NEXT Memphis Visits the cityCURRENT Radio Show

at Monday, June 29, 2020

NEXT Memphis Announces First Cohort of Eight Childcare Centers

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath’s NEXT Memphis initiative recently announced the inaugural cohort of childcare centers that will participate in its shared services program model. The network of standout centers will directly increase educational outcomes for children, family-level outcomes for parents, business viability, and overall childcare center quality. Participants are:

  • Gateway Learning Academy
  • Hooks-Dimmick Child Care
  • Hope House Day Care, Inc.
  • I Rise Christian Academy
  • KIDazzle - Flying Start Child Development Center
  • Lambs & Ivy School
  • Perea Preschool
  • Yale Road Learning Center

Participating centers were selected based upon rigorous evaluation of existing practices, as well as having demonstrable passion for children and families, willingness to innovate and alter business paradigms, established history in serving low-income neighborhoods, and in-depth viewpoints and approaches to excellence.

NEXT Memphis background

NEXT Memphis, at its essence, is for the community. Developed as a response to local research supported by First 8 Memphis, NEXT Memphis is a shared service program model that helps independent childcare providers reduce costs and improve outcomes, so that they can direct more of their attention and resources to the classroom and families.

NEXT Memphis’ model will ensure that more children enter kindergarten ready to learn, that more families are thriving, and that childcare professionals have the resources and care they need to grow in their profession. Through NEXT Memphis, Porter-Leath will offer wraparound services to families, helping parents set and achieve goals and connecting them with community resources.  

Cohort initiative plans

The current total enrollment for the cohort is 800 children, with the potential licensed enrollment of 1,600 children. As one component, NEXT Memphis will focus on boosting enrollment, which will greatly strengthen each center’s sustainability, as well as help more children and families benefit from top-quality care. When fully enrolled, an estimated $7.1M[1] in additional revenue will be attained for the centers, all of which are Minority/Women-Owned Businesses. Centers will reinvest in quality enhancements for their childcare, such as increased teacher wages and facility improvements.

Since the start of COVID-19, NEXT Memphis has worked with local philanthropy to supply community partners with hard-to-find supplies—such as cleaning solution, gloves, disinfectant, toilet tissue, paper towels, garbage bags, can liners, and bleach—so that centers can continue to safely serve children.

In addition to its local focus, NEXT Memphis has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Human Services to provide comprehensive support and care coordination to families whose children are enrolled in a partner center. These services support families in pursuing their own goals and navigating crisis situations, whenever needed.

As Memphis and Shelby County begin to fully reopen, comprehensive services will begin to ensure that:

  • Children thrive in their development and enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • Families are supported with wraparound services and quality childcare
  • Staff feel completely equipped to increase quality of service and business sustainability

While focusing on its initial cohort of 11 direct partners, NEXT Memphis will add childcare providers to a second and third cohort over the next two years, establishing an estimated partner portfolio of 40 childcare centers and 4,000 children and families by 2022.

“To me, childcare professionals are unsung heroes in our community. The care and services they provide not only allow parents to go to work and/or school, but truly shape the next generation in their most precious years. It is an honor to partner with First 8 Memphis and the philanthropic community to do our part in uplifting Shelby County’s brightest potential,” said Chloe Moore, NEXT Memphis Program Director.

[1] This estimation is based on figures before COVID-19. It calculates vacancies in February, times the average fee charged, and assumes year-round service (52 weeks).