In June 2020, GKFF-BEST made a commitment to actively pursue and work toward racial equity in a number of ways. While a single initiative cannot fully address centuries of systemic racism, GKFF-BEST has remained committed to doing our part by engaging in ongoing, critical self-reflection and improvement. GKFF-BEST pledged to “relinquish and share decision-making authority with those individuals and organizations with the most direct experience with the barriers of poverty, racism and injustice.” Alongside our partners, GKFF-BEST spent the past year exploring different ways to elevate community voice through promising partnerships and opportunities. One of these efforts led to the BEST Advisory Committee determining the allocation of more than $2.2 million dollars. The Committee includes community and program organizational leaders from all components of GKFF-BEST.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing inequities in our community, shining a spotlight on issues of race and poverty. While no one could have foreseen the devastating impact of COVID-19, CAP Tulsa took action by adapting an existing emergency assistance program to meet the immense financial need faced by their families. Lindsey Cabaniss and Brandy Holleyman took on the task of designing this process. Throughout the program’s implementation, Lindsey and Brandy have ensured family perspective is centered in every step of the ever-adapting process with the understanding that respect for families’ autonomy is a vital part of any efforts to support financial resiliency.
Human beings crave connection and community. Studies have found that people who regularly connect with family, friends and their community struggle less with their mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and families have become increasingly isolated from others. Family & Children’s Services has done a great amount of work to support families during this time, especially through their Maternal Mental Health program. Their work has shown that collaboration can also be a powerful tool in supporting mental health.
Haylee Prince and Neil Wagner make up a small but mighty team of Front Porch Ambassadors (FPA), an initiative launched by Governor Stitt to simplify and streamline the process for Oklahomans accessing state benefits such as WIC, SoonerCare, housing assistance, SNAP, child-care, TANF and more. Embedded at Emergency Infant Services’ (EIS) downtown location, the two Front Porch Ambassadors spend their days building relationships and helping Tulsa’s families and children navigate the complex system of state benefits.
Names carry with them power, history and influence. Named after the historic Greenwood district, which came to be known as “Black Wall Street,” Greenwood Leadership Academy (GLA) aims to empower Tulsa’s future leaders and scholars by honoring the past, making connections to the present and paving the way to an equitable future. Moving into its fifth year of operation, GLA continues to center students’ voices and to hold space for students to contribute to the community’s collective vision.
In any discussion about racism in medicine, the racial inequities in maternal health are sure to come up. Maternal mortality rates for black mothers are over three times higher than that of white women. This statistic is disappointing and daunting, especially for Black and Indigenous people who are expectant and/or trying to conceive. LaBrisa Williams leads the Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative (TBEI), a multi-program initiative that equips families in Tulsa to have healthy births with dignity and reduce maternal health disparities. TBEI approaches the work with the acknowledgment that a singular solution will not fix the racial disparities in maternal mortality, infant mortality and the lived experience of underserved families during pregnancy. Because of this, TBEI is committed to not only providing direct services and meeting immediate, individual needs but also addressing and shaping systems-level change.
Sophia Pappas joined GKFF in 2017. She's responsible for the implementation of the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST). Before joining GKFF, Ms. Pappas authored Good Morning, Children (Gryphon House, '09), spearheaded Teach For America’s national Early Childhood Education Initiative and served as Chief of Staff for the NYC Dept. of Education for the Division of Talent, Labor and Innovation. She ran the NYC Dept. of Education’s Early Childhood Education Division where she oversaw teams responsible for ensuring Pre-K for all programs across the city, serving approximately 70,000 children annually offering high-quality classroom instruction and family engagement. She managed public and private partnerships supporting these efforts. She attended Georgetown University and Harvard Kennedy School earning a Master of Public Policy.
Catrice Brantley is the Director of ConnectFirst, with the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. Prior to joining GKFF, she held various nurse leadership roles with the most recent at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ms. Brantley holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Oral Roberts University and a Master of Science in Nurse Midwifery from the University of Kansas.
Dan Sterba is the Director of Data Systems and Technology for the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa for GKFF. He joins the team from the healthcare consulting industry, where he worked on process optimization and software design for large non-profit hospital systems. Mr. Sterba graduated from Brown University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and Russian.
Amy joined GKFF in 2018 as the Director of Research Partnerships for the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST). She comes to GKFF from Oklahoma State University, where as a Clinical Associate Professor she held leadership roles in early childhood workforce development, including serving as the Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator and Oklahoma Co-Coordinator for the National Family Development Credential. She is a graduate of Tulsa Edison High School and holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Human Development & Family Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a Master of Education degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology from the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Human & Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University.
Allison joined GKFF in 2019 as Director of Operations for the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. With over 15 years experience in education, first as a teacher and instructional coach and then moving on to systems-level roles in K-12 education, Allison most recently worked as a district administrator in Denver Public Schools and then nationally as a consultant. Her professional work has been focused on strategic planning, program implementation and scale-up efforts through an equity lens, including leadership, instructional and HR policies and practices, as well as management of large public grants. Allison earned Bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and American Studies from the University of Illinois, an MA in American Studies from the University of East Anglia in England, and a Masters of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Tania Reeves serves as the Administrative Coordinator for ConnectFirst with the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa and is an active member of the Operations Team. She joined the team in 2020 from the hearing healthcare industry, where she worked as a corporate trainer designing and developing standard operating procedures and facilitating adult learning curriculum for in-person and virtual learning experiences. Ms. Reeves graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management. Prior to attending the University of Phoenix, she graduated from Rose State College with studies focused on Medical Laboratory Technology.
Stefanie Menting serves as the Program Coordinator for ConnectFirst with the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. Prior to joining GKFF, Ms. Menting worked at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa as the residency program coordinator in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and from the University of Oklahoma with a master’s degree in Human Relations.
Tegan Cortes serves as the Administrative Coordinator for Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. Prior to joining GKFF, she spent several years working in administration at local private K-12 schools with most recent at Metro Christian Academy. She has spent the past decade traveling overseas doing missions work in Latin American communities. Mrs. Cortes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Church Administration and minor in Non-Profit Business Administration from Oral Roberts University. Previous to attending Oral Roberts University, she graduated from Victory College with studies focused in ministry and leadership.
Angela Wells serves as an Operations Associate for Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. Prior to joining GKFF, she spent 30 years as a high school Latin teacher in both public and private schools. Ms. Wells holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Languages and History from Trinity University as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in Classics from Vanderbilt University.
Anna joined GKFF in 2020 and serves as the Associate Director of Partner and External Operations for the Birth Through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. With over 10 years of experience in education, first as a teacher and then as a nonprofit leader, Anna most recently worked as the founding director of the Meridian Freedom Project in Meridian, Mississippi. From 2013 to 2019, Anna worked alongside community leaders, parents and students to create an out-of-school space that was rooted in preparing middle and high school students to be socially conscious and academically successful leaders. During this time, Anna also worked to establish state-wide partnerships to ensure long-term sustainability for the organization before stepping down to spend nearly a year at home with her young son. Anna is a Tulsa native and holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Baylor University.
Beth Delancy is a Project Manager on the Data Systems and Technology Team for the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. She worked in corporate IT for many years before moving to MyHealth Access Network where she worked on BEST projects for two years before joining the team in 2021. Her corporate experience included working with executive and IT management, business partners, IT infrastructure, and application development teams to implement new technology and consolidate diverse processes to achieve goals in the mortgage, pre-employment screening, and oil & gas industries. Beth graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management and a minor in Management Information Systems.
Ashley Knox serves as an Operations Associate for Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa. Prior to joining GKFF, she supported her family’s restaurant, Sweet Lisa’s, in north Tulsa and is the past chair of the TYPROS Foundation.
JD joined GKFF in 2022 as the Director of Shared Leadership where she prioritizes work related to diversity equity and inclusion (DEI), community mobilization, team development, communications and universal supports. Prior to joining GKFF, she spent over a decade in work focused on increasing opportunities for people historically marginalized, channeled through education. She attended Virginia Commonwealth University where her undergraduate studies focused on Psychology, Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies and African American studies. She continued her education at Johns Hopkins University, where she received her Master of Science in Education.
Chela joined the GKFF-BEST team as Program Associate in January 2023. Chela will advance BEST’s mission by managing relationships with BEST partners and BEST Advisory and developing materials for external meetings to build awareness about BEST for local and national audiences. Prior to joining GKFF, she worked in several Tulsa non-profit organizations where she demonstrated strength in project management, relationship building and preparation of materials. Her roles in grant writing and development exposed her to philanthropy, budgeting and data collection, from a grantee's perspective. A North Tulsa native, Chela holds Bachelor's and Master of Arts degrees in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Sara Frazier is a Program Associate with Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST). She is a Brooklyn, NY native and holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a minor in Music, specializing in administration, production, marketing and organizational communication. She first moved to Tulsa in 2020 for a six-month internship with Transformation Church and began to heavily serve with The Tulsa Dream Center; here is where she developed a passion for the Tulsa community and permanently moved to Tulsa in April of 2022 to pursue her heart’s desire.