Children Ready to Learn is a non-profit educational organization that provides parents and caregivers in Washington with workshops, take-home materials, and tools to help their babies and young children develop strong brain connections that determine how they will think, learn, and grow.
Empowering today’s families to prepare their children for kindergarten and beyond.
Children Ready to Learn empowers today’s families to succeed in their role as their children’s first teachers by providing them with relevant resources and experiences to enhance children’s learning; thereby, increasing the number of children of African descent who are ready to navigate kindergarten and beyond.
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Millicent Borishade began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher in Blue Island, Illinois. She has taught every level which includes graduate-level courses and college behind bars. Currently, she serves as a Principal in the Highline School District. As Principal, she demonstrates a unique talent for growing individual adult practitioners in service of improving outcomes for scholars in tandem with strengthening school-wide approaches. Dr. Borishade’s theory of action captures her clear commitment to building on the strengths of the instructional staff to improve the learning of scholars. Millicent is a warm demander of equity and relentless in her pursuit of creating change as an internal catalyst for educators so that her scholars are served from a growth mindset. She is consistently making leadership decisions that embrace the complexities of working with adults who are on their own journey for understanding race and privilege. She wholeheartedly believes that every student can learn and that parents are children’s first teachers who co-author their student’s success with the classroom teacher. She further believes that when parents have additional resources and support, cultivating a genius is inevitable.
Prior to Highline, Dr. Borishade served as a School Improvement Officer for 14 elementary schools in Kent School District, where approximately seven of the schools she supervised and supported were recognized as Washington State Award Recipients for improving student achievement in various areas (ELL, Math, ELA, and innovation).
Dr. Borishade earned a Bachelor of Arts in therapeutic recreation from the University of Illinois in Urbana, a Masters of Arts in Teaching, and a doctoral degree in Education Leadership from National Louis University in Chicago. Her specific background is on the challenges of leadership, theoretical and relational, ultimately serving as an internal catalyst for change.
She has two professional accomplishments of which she is most proud. While a Principal in Illinois, Dr. Borishade’s school was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education as a Spotlight School for improving student achievement. Subsequently, when she joined the Kent School District, she expanded the Parent Academy for Student Achievement (PASA) program which helped parents new to the country and district, navigate the educational system and positively change the trajectory for families and scholars she worked with. Later, Dr. Borishade took a delegate from Kent School District, which included parents, principals, and community-based organizations to Harvard University for a Family and Community Engagement Institute.
Dr. Borishade is also the proud mother of Alexis Francine AdeShola who has earned her Master’s in Journalism from Michigan State University. For recreation, she enjoys parasailing, rowing, playing softball, and volleyball. Dr. Borishade is constantly growing and wants to share her knowledge through continued partnerships with parents in a world that is ever-changing and provide parent workshops through Children Ready To Learn.
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Shajaira López began her teaching career in 2006 as a middle school bilingual teacher in the Chicago Public Schools--where she was able to develop many of her students’ love for reading and develop a commitment to high expectations for herself, her students, and the people she collaborates with. She has also served as an assistant principal, principal, and Chair, and Assistant Professor of ESL/Bilingual Education. Currently, she serves as the Director of Secondary Language Learning and P-12 Instruction on Race and Identity in Highline Public Schools. As a director, she passionately advocates for students who are racially and linguistically diverse by pushing the system to think and act in ways that address their needs.
Dr. López believes that every student can and will learn, and is committed to educational practices that ensure that students of all backgrounds have the same opportunities to learn, develop their knowledge, and experience success. She believes in the transformational power of learning, which allows students to see how their lives and the lives of those around them can change when they use the knowledge and skills acquired.
Dr. López earned an Associates in Arts Degree in Miami Dade College, a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Masters of Science in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from Northeastern Illinois University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University. She looks forward to collaborating with the team at Children Ready to Learn and families in order to live out the organization’s vision of nurturing childrens’ learning and development, ensuring that they reach their potential in school and in life.
Dr. Allison Deno has spent the last two decades leading instructional teams and improving outcomes for students from pre-kindergarten through high school. She’s deeply driven and motivated by advocacy for – and provision of – high-quality, student-focused learning experiences with equity at the core. She’s passionate about the work Children Ready to Learn is doing to empower families and enhance learning.
Dr. Deno has worked in a variety of Washington State School Districts, serving as Principal, School Improvement Officer, and a Supervisor of ELL/Title I/LAP Programs. She’s a collaborative leader with experience organizing, implementing, and promoting inclusive learning environments for students, staff, and families. Analytical by nature, she’s adept at analyzing complex data and implementing systems and feedback loops for continuous improvement.
Dr. Deno has a Doctorate in Education from the University of Washington and a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Portuguese from the University of Minnesota and still cheers for the Gophers.
Ask her about water polo or the book in her hand; she has spent years cheering her children on in the pool and is a great source of reading recommendations.
Yolanda Heidelberg is a very proud third-generation educator adopting the maternal and paternal legacy of her family while currently navigating thirty-four years of continued services in education. Highly noted and regarded as a native Memphian, she and her brother, Dexter Henson were named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children.
Yolanda’s career began in 1989 as a third-grade teacher at Kingsbury Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee. She retired in Memphis, Tennessee in 2018 with a transition to Washington state after a seventeen-year veteran principalship at Jackson Elementary. While at Jackson Elementary, the school received notable accolades. In the state of Tennessee, schools and their leaders were evaluated on their performances on statewide assessments. Jackson Elementary maintained a TVAAS (Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System) assessment of level 5, the highest-ranking from 2005 until 2018, which measures yearly student growth. Great Cities and Great Schools, Education Quality Index Study, recognized Jackson Elementary as one of 10 schools in Tennessee in closing the achievement gap in 2016. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan under the leadership of then-President Barack Obama recognized Jackson Elementary as a 2012 TN Reward School. Furthermore in 2016, Jackson Elementary earned the distinction as a 2016 National Blue-Ribbon School for Exemplary Performance in Closing the Achievement Gap.
In the summer of 2018, Yolanda transitioned to Washington state and began her work in the Federal Way Public Schools as principal of Lake Grove Elementary and earned the distinction of Setting the Pace Award in Language Arts and Math. In 2020, she decided to take on fewer leadership responsibilities to be a more active parent with her only daughter. She and her husband, Ronald are the proud parents of her daughter, Sydney Heidelberg, a middle school scholar in the Issaquah School District.
Yolanda received a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Memphis and a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Additionally, Yolanda has a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Health Care Management from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
Often you may hear Yolanda quote one of her favorite poems:
One hundred years from now it won’t matter What kind of car I drove, What kind of house I lived in. How much money I had in the bank Nor what my clothes look like But the world may be a little better Because I was important in the life of a child.
Athena Jiménez-Manalo is driven by the belief that all students can succeed when provided the proper tools, access, and opportunities. Athena believes that multilingualism and cultural diversity are assets to build upon and aspires to increase the quantity of and access to high-quality multilingual education programs that are rooted in culturally responsive teaching practices.
Athena’s career spans Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle where she has served as a bilingual family liaison, after-school program coordinator, soccer coach, dual language teacher, curriculum developer, and Spanish immersion teacher. In addition to her official role as educator, Athena facilitated community learning and professional development for families and professionals in schools, early learning centers, and conferences. Notable topics include: Navigating the K-12 System (for Parents); Unconscious Bias; Courageous Conversations; White Fragility: Confronting Racism; Strategies for Increasing Academic Language Development; Best Practices for Teaching Language Online, and more.
Athena is proud to have earned her B.A. in History and Secondary Education from Northeastern Illinois University, a Hispanic-Serving Institution. She went on to earn her M.Ed in Bilingual Education from the American College of Education where she is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Leadership, which she hopes to complete in 2023. In her spare time, Athena enjoys hiking, exploring new places, reading, networking with others who are interested in uplifting their communities, and of course, relaxing and spending quality time with her husband and fur family.
Ms. Andrea Tee began her educational career in serving students in early childhood dual-language programs, specifically targeting historically marginalized youth. Ms. Tee has taught high school mathematics, both remedial and advanced, as well as all middle school subjects. She has served as an assistant principal at a PreK – 8th Grade STEM Academy, an assistant principal at a traditional middle school, and a principal at a traditional elementary school. Currently, Ms. Tee serves as the principal at a public choice school serving students in grades 6-10, with a focus on college preparation.
Ms. Tee believes that every student deserves an environment that will foster their individual talents and skills and set them on a rigorous pathway to achieve their dreams. Alternative options for public educational models and meeting all students’ needs within those options are a passion for Ms. Tee. Family engagement, education, and involvement are critical to meeting those needs and ensuring the success of our youth.
Ms. Tee has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Western Governors University, and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from American College of Education, with a specific focus in Instructional Leadership. She believes that the equity-focused and inclusive practices of our educators are critical in the development of exceptional outcomes for each of our children.
Saunjah S. Brantley is a socially conscious entrepreneur, business & community leader passionate about building teams & driving results while making a difference for the greater good of humanity. Her 20+ year career spans strategic sourcing, technical project management, program management, inclusion & diversity strategies, internal/ employee communications, global training, and social impact initiatives.
A Chicago native, Saunjah moved to Seattle in 2014 to pursue a new business opportunity in the retail industry after residing in New Jersey for 14 years working in the pharmaceutical industry. She brought her passion for making a difference with and through others along with her and is making an impact in the local Seattle community. She currently serves as a Director, Community Experience & Ops within Microsoft's Marketing Consumer Business and is the founder of Spark Results, LLC a consulting firm specializing in strategic consulting, cultural transformation, leadership development, and program management.
Saunjah is a graduate of the People’s Academy for Community Engagement (PACE) Program (Dept. of Seattle Neighborhoods) and is currently a member of Leadership Tomorrow's 2022 Cohort. She is also an active member of the Seattle Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated where she has served as President of their Dynamic Urban Opportunities Foundation (2016-2018), which raises funds for college scholarships and community engagement programs, Connection (Civic Engagement) Committee Chair, and the Civic and Community Engagement Co-chair for their ASCEND youth development program. She also serves as Chair of the Seattle Advisory Board for JUMA ventures, a social enterprise that enables socio-economic development for local opportunity youth.
Saunjah holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and an M.B.A. in Finance from Rutgers University. She also holds a Diversity & Inclusion for HR certification from Cornell University.
A thought leader and talented facilitator have led and collaborated in different capacities training and facilitating experiences that support successful racial and multicultural inclusiveness within diverse environments. Richard has worked in educational, corporate, and nonprofit institutions as an innovator, bridge builder, voice, and practitioner. He uses developmental approaches that yield demonstrated behavioral outcomes for individuals and organizations that are goal-driven and multicultural/racial proactive and responsive.
As the Principal Consultant and Founder of Second Layer Consulting, Richard has a gift for focusing on the strengths of his clients and communicating how their set of unique qualities contribute to leadership development and management performance. He is known for his expertise and strategic use of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) in leadership development of individuals and teams, as well as in enhancing organizations’ Diversity and Inclusion strategies. He is valued by his clients for designing and facilitating authentic and positive learning environments that support awareness, growth, and transformation.
Richard received his Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis in
Ethnic Studies from the University of Northern Iowa and Master of Arts in
Education with an emphasis in Leadership from Augsburg College.
Richard’s life philosophy revolves around this quote by Malcolm X “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
James is an outcomes-driven, passionate, effective leader with a proven ability to drive company growth. He brings an innovative management style that drives collaboration and focuses on achieving results. James is a champion of leadership development and succession planning. He is adept at brand development and brand expansion.
James began his career as a summer camp counselor for at-risk youth in the city of Chicago. After 5+ years of successful direct service, James moved on to managing youth programs as the Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin and then as Senior Operations Manager and Area Specialist for Junior Achievement of Chicago. Since 2006, James has held Executive positions with non-profit organizations at the forefront of their industry. As the Executive Director of Jumpstart for Young Children’s Midwest Region, James played an instrumental role in leading the programmatic and fiscal expansion. He was responsible for developing and leading a board of directors filled with passionate and caring professionals.
James moved on to serve as the CEO of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), the world’s leading trade association focus on challenge courses, zip lines and canopy tours. As ACCT’s CEO, James lead ACCT to astronomical growth in membership, revenue and conference attendance. His leadership helped propel the industry forward. According to Xola.com, “There are over 400 commercial zip lines listed on Zip Line Rider located in the United States. 15 years ago, there were only 10."
James now serves as the CEO of Circle Urban Ministries where in less than one year the afterschool enrollment increased by more than 25% and the teen program’s enrollment quadrupled. James is passionate about improving the lives of young adults. In his spare time, he can be found motivating young adults to pursue their passion and overcome obstacles. He has frequently served as keynote speaker and workshop presenter for various conferences and meetings focused on developing young adults.
James holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northern Illinois University where he now serves on the Board of Advisors for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. James is a devoted family man and the proud father of 3 children.