Our Approach


  • Tracy Zimmerman

    Executive Director

    Tracy has more than 25 years of experience working on behalf of public interest organizations.  She helped found the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), where she serves as Executive Director. NCECF is driven by the vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong health, education and well-being, supported by the nation’s premiere birth-to-eight system.

    Under her leadership, NCECF launched its signature initiative, the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways). Pathways is a collaborative effort bringing together the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. She also serves on My Future NC, a statewide commission on educational attainment led by North Carolina’s public education systems, and was appointed to the Birth-through-Third Grade Interagency Council.

    Prior to NCECF, she led The North Carolina Partnership for Children’s (NCPC) public engagement efforts and developed the First 2,000 Days campaign. Tracy previously served as the Public Relations Director at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC and as Senior Vice President at The Hauser Group in Washington DC, where she created an award-winning public health campaign on infertility prevention for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

    She holds a BA in political science from Washington University in St. Louis. Tracy and her husband, an elementary school teacher, have two children.

  • Lisa Finaldi

    Community Engagement Leader

    Lisa has over 25 years of experience as a non-profit leader at the state, national and international levels. She leads the First 2000 Days initiative and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Through the First 2,000 Days initiative, local organizations build their public engagement capacity, position early child development as an issue that impacts all North Carolinians and engage unexpected voices as early childhood champions.

    Prior to NCECF, as National Campaigns Director at Greenpeace US, Lisa directed numerous successful initiatives on environmental and public health policy. She designed and led the first global investigation to test ingredients in children’s toys and products, resulting in consumer protection policy changes in over 20 countries. During her tenure at Greenpeace, Lisa formed Greenpeace Solutions, dedicated to accelerating innovation to address climate change.

    Throughout her career, Lisa has brought together communities, business, government and organizations to shape cooperative efforts for change. She has unified disparate voices to define and achieve breakthrough solutions to complex issues.

    Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from West Virginia University and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University. She lives in Raleigh with her family and is a past president of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood, a founder of NCWARN and a founding member of the board of directors of Raleigh City Farm, a one-acre urban farm in downtown Raleigh.




  • Mandy Ableidinger

    Policy and Practice Leader

    Mandy serves as NCECF’s Policy and Practice Leader. She leads the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative and will guide the development of a Birth‐to‐Eight Policy Center to serve as a reliable source of information on birth‐to‐eight policies for North Carolina policymakers, business leaders, philanthropists, early childhood professionals, community leaders and others.

    Mandy has more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors, focused on children’s issues. Prior to joining NCECF, she was an independent consultant in the early childhood, child welfare, and child mental health fields, including helping to guide the first year of the Pathways Initiative for NCECF. She has previously served as the Director of Policy and Budget Analysis at Action for Children NC (now NC Child), and as a fiscal policy analyst for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As a Fulbright Scholar, she spent two years working on education issues with the UN World Food Programme in Morocco.

    Mandy holds a B.A. from Duke University and a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) from Princeton University. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and three children.

  • Sumera Syed

    Organizational Manager

    Sumera’s passion for non profit work began with an internship in Montana for Project Vote Smart. Prior to joining NCECF, she worked as a Program Coordinator with Guilford Adult Health. She also served as a Research and External Communications Consultant with the North Carolina Humanities Council and an Organizational Support Specialist at Partners Ending Homelessness.  At Partners Ending Homelessness, she coordinated logistics for leadership training and events to teach service providers how to effectively and compassionately work with the homeless population in Guilford County.
    Sumera holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Appalachian State University and a Master of Public Administration/Affairs degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Sumera is a recent transplant to Raleigh where she lives with her husband.

  • Tiesha Pope

    Finance Manager

    Tiesha serves as NCECF’s Financial Manager. She has over 20 years combined auditing, accounting, budgeting and fiscal analysis experience in the public, not-for-profit and private sectors. Prior to joining NCECF, Tiesha served as the Director of Internal Auditing for the NC Department of Justice. Her previous experience includes serving as a Principal Auditor at Duke University, Fiscal Analyst at the NC General Assembly, Risk Management Supervisor at McGladrey & Pullen, LLP and Adjunct Accounting Instructor at Miller-Motte College.

    She holds a B.S. in Accounting from Elizabeth City State University and a MBA from Meredith College. Tiesha is also a North Carolina licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Internal Auditor. She resides in Wake County with her family.