Her passion for helping others fueled a successful, 15-year career at United Way of Greater Cincinnati and now, Stephanie W. Byrd, United Way’s senior vice president of early learning strategies, is taking that passion to United Way’s major campaign partner, the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region of the American Red Cross.
Byrd was named Regional CEO by the Red Cross Board of Trustees on Thursday. She is the first African American woman to lead the local chapter of the Red Cross and succeeds Trish Smitson who retired in January.
During her career at United Way, Byrd led the nonprofit’s critical work in kindergarten readiness by serving as United Way Success by 6 Executive Director, senior vice president of early learning strategies and as the first-ever Interim Executive Director of the Cincinnati Preschool Promise for the organization during its important, formative first year.
“In the nearly fifteen years I have worked in early childhood at United Way, I have learned a lot about the wisdom of not taking things for granted – like the importance of quality early learning and early childhood development,” Byrd said. “Many people still don’t pursue the great opportunity to invest in the early years. I know and appreciate from my time at United Way that this work is the most important thing we can do if we want to change educational outcomes and improve lives.”
Byrd was an instrumental leader in the effort to pass Issue 44, a Cincinnati tax levy to fund affordable, quality preschool, and in guiding the Cincinnati Preschool Promise to ensure that 1,100 low-income children received quality preschool in the organization’s first year.
“Our region’s kindergarten readiness movement would simply not be where it is today without the leadership of Stephanie Byrd,” said Robert C. Reifsnyder, United Way of Greater Cincinnati president. “Stephanie was first a great United Way volunteer leader who evolved into a tremendous member of our staff. She guided the kindergarten readiness movement in our region through coordinating initiatives like United Way Success by 6 and the Cincinnati Preschool Promise from design to program execution. In this new role, she will continue to contribute to our region and we look forward to working closely with her as she takes the reigns of one of United Way’s most significant funding partnerships.”
Byrd starts her new role at the Red Cross on May 7.
“I will draw on the knowledge I have gained at United Way over these years when I think about the trauma caused by disasters,” Byrd said. “I will also be reminded of how important safety and prevention are for all of us, but especially children.”