Sponsored Content

Children First, Inc.

“Ranking in the top 1 percent of Head Start programs nationwide.”

Presented by Children First, Inc. September 30, 2020

L-R: Kathleen Sullivan, Jacqueline Ray, Maria Buitrago, Arianne Kopacz, Jessica Rogers, Lynnette Coney

Children First’s female leadership is a driving force behind the agency’s success as a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence. Their broad expertise helps the agency deliver excellence in program management and service performance, and guides the achievement of robust outcomes for pregnant women, at-risk children birth to 5 years old, and families within our community.

Jacqueline Ray, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus and former higher education administrator and psychologist. As treasurer of Children First’s board of directors, she lends strategic insight into team building, strong governance, and leadership.

Vice President of Programs Kathleen Sullivan has over 35 years of experience within the Head Start community. She is the author of three works on early childhood education and development and is a speaker at the local, state, and national level on child development.

Lynnette Coney is a proud mother and uses her voice to advocate for lifelong learning and parent success. She was appointed to the national Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative and a member of the agency’s parent-comprised Policy Council.

With a broad expertise in early childhood education and mentorship, Family Advocate Coach Maria Buitrago is a Family Development Credential Instructor and Portfolio Advisor for the National Family Development Credential Program at UCONN, for Children First, and the community.

Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist Arianne Kopacz supports a program-wide culture promoting children and families’ mental health, and social and emotional well-being. She is a registered mental health counselor completing an eighteen-month Child Parent Psychotherapy Learning Collaborative cohort.

With over 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and fund raising, Jessica Rogers, Vice President of Philanthropy, has transformed fund raising and outreach efforts allowing the agency to serve the greatest number of children and families in its 59-year history.


  • Four-Time National Head Start Association Program of Excellence (2006-2020)
  • Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit of the Year Finalist (2020)
  • WEDU PBS Nonprofit of the Year (2019)
  • Best Place to Work in Sarasota-Manatee (2019, 2020)
  • GuideStar.Org Platinum Seal of Transparency (2019, 2020)

Children First, Inc.
(941) 953-3877