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First-Year Rootle Ambassadors to Serve 16 Counties Statewide with Early Education Resources 


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, 8/19/2021 — PBS North Carolina announced today the launch of its Rootle Ambassador program in 16 North Carolina counties. Rootle, PBS NC’s locally branded 24/7 PBS KIDS Channel, provides a proven educational partner to families, caregivers and educators of North Carolina. Over the course of five years, the Rootle Ambassador program will expand to all 100 counties in the state, bringing valuable, vetted early childhood content to communities across North Carolina. 

Rootle Ambassadors are locally based community members with a strong desire to support families of young learners and are trained to utilize and share the suite of PBS early education resources within their communities.  

Powered by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust grant awarded to PBS NC last summer, the Rootle Ambassador program will make an immediate, significant difference in the lives of North Carolina’s children. Working in collaboration with statewide educational agencies and community organizations, the Rootle Ambassadors will host engagement events and learning opportunities for families, caregivers and educators in the selected 16 counties over the course of the year, focusing on children ages 2-8.  

“Every child in our state deserves access to quality, empowering resources through early childhood development and school,” said PBS NC Chief Education and Innovation Officer, Dr. Melissa Rihm Thibault. Thibault, recently appointed to lead PBS NC’s new Education division, shares her excitement for this transformative educational opportunity. “Our state is diverse, and each community is unique. The Rootle Ambassador is in and of each of these communities, bringing their knowledge, connections and deeply held understanding to the role, ensuring that each child is made aware of the assets and opportunities inherent in their home community.” 

PBS NC successfully piloted the Rootle Ambassador model over a two-year period in select North Carolina counties, earning overwhelmingly positive evaluations for its ability to connect resources to children’s needs and interests. With its five-year plan to train ambassadors in all 100 counties, the Rootle Ambassador program has the potential to reach more than 10,000 families every year. It will empower educators, caregivers and community partners to serve as education leaders in their counties, giving parents and caregivers tools to enrich their child’s learning, providing valuable training and creating a community network for early educators to connect. 

For 15 consecutive years, Americans have rated PBS and its member stations as the most trusted media institution in the nation, and 81% of parents say PBS Kids helps prepare their children for school readiness. Rootle provides demonstrated value with free and accessible resources from PBS KIDS and Rootle’s own educational outreach initiatives and events to North Carolina families and educators. With statewide rollout of the Rootle Ambassadors program, PBS NC will significantly expand access to transformative opportunities for early learning and help every child begin a life-changing educational journey. 

Rootle is pleased to announce the first class of Rootle Ambassadors appointed to the following counties.  

  • Sara Kesterson, Ashe County 
  • April Swain, Bertie County 
  • Brandon Autar, Buncombe County 
  • Wayne Phillip, M.D., Cabarrus County 
  • La’Gentry Ross, Catawba County 
  • Brenda Millett, Cherokee County 
  • Sandra Ixa Plata-Potter, Ph.D., Craven County 
  • Steven Harrison, Durham County 
  • LouMecia Staton, Guilford County 
  • Jennelle Lewis, Lenoir County 
  • Chastity Gouge, McDowell County 
  • Ayodele Mellor, New Hanover County 
  • Connie Locklear, Ed.D, Robeson County 
  • Erika Brock, Transylvania County 
  • Lisa Genschel, Wake County 
  • Tameka Allen, Wayne County 


For more information on the Rootle Ambassador Program and to follow along with activities in their counties, visit and follow Rootle on Instagram @rootlenc

About PBS North Carolina  

As North Carolina’s statewide PBS network serving the country’s third-largest public media market, PBS NC educates, informs, entertains and inspires its statewide audience on-air, online and in-person. Through its unique partnership of public investment and private support, the statewide network includes in-person engagement, digital-first social and online content delivery, and four over-the-air channels—PBS NC, the North Carolina Channel, Rootle 24/7 PBS Kids and the Explorer Channel. Its transformational events and content spark curiosity and wonder for all North Carolinians. Additionally, PBS NC serves as the backbone for North Carolina’s state’s emergency services. Visit and join the conversation at and @MyPBSNC on Instagram and Twitter


Media Contacts: 
Kathleen Kramer, PBS North Carolina Marketing & Communications