Parenting and School Readiness Lab

The Parenting and School Readiness Lab, which is a community-engaged lab focused on conducting research with low-income preschool and elementary school students to determine factors that contribute to children’s resilience and early school adjustment. We examine children’s social competence and play, early language and cognitive development, and mental health. Parenting, parent engagement in children’s schooling, and home-school connections are also a key focus of our research program. Students in our lab engage in a variety of projects with local Head Start programs and elementary schools. We are specifically focused on resilience of Latinx and African American children in our communities and implications or our research for programs and policies that positively impact their lives.

Graduate students in our lab have diverse interests in young children, families, and their cultural and school contexts. Most students have direct experiences conducting research or clinical work with young children prior to joining our lab. We also have opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research studies with preschool children through Psychology 433 credits or by volunteering. To get more information about opportunities, please email Dr. Mendez Smith.

Our Work

Dr. Mendez has directed several federally funded grants from the Administration on Children and Families, Office of Head Start:

Head Start Quality Research Center (2001-2006) examining the effectiveness of a community-based intervention designed to improve family involvement and engagement within Head Start programs.

English Language Learner Consortium (2007-2010) examining an adapted community-based intervention designed to improve family engagement for immigrant families with children attending Head Start.

National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families (2013-present) which is a multi-site, collaborative research center examining child care access, poverty reduction and self-sufficiency, and family well-being for Latinx families. Child Trends, Duke University, and the University of Maryland, alongside investigators at UNCG, lead a number of studies designed to inform practice and policy.

Other community-engaged initiatives include:

  • Founding member of the Guilford Parent Academy, which offers resources and support to parents in Guilford County.
  • Wellness programs for Head Start staff and teachers
  • Advisory Board Member and Research Collaborator with the Rapid-EC project, a national survey of parents of young children since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
  • Working with Asheboro School District to establish their Family and Community Engagement Center and to offer family-centered programs

Our Lab

Julia Mendez Smith

Dr. Julia Mendez Smith

Twitter: @DrJMSmith25 and @NRCHispanic

Dr. Mendez Smith is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). She is a licensed psychologist and a core member of the APA-accredited graduate training program in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Mendez received her doctoral degree in School, Community and Child Clinical Psychology from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with low-income, ethnic minority children for over 20 years and has over 70 publications on these populations. She has served as a primary mentor for over 10 doctoral students, dozens of undergraduate students and graduate students at other universities who are interested in studying children’s resilience. She serves on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and Adversity and Resilience Science. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, three children, extended family, and friends. You can find her walking, cheering at a soccer or baseball game, or enjoying the beautiful weather in Greensboro – especially the warm days of summertime.

Kaitlin Quick

Kaitlin Quick, MSc.


Kaitlin Quick, MSc. is a current graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at UNCG. She completed her BFA in Digital Art from Northeastern University (2013) and her MSc. in Global Health from Duke University (2021). Prior to her graduate studies, Kaitlin spent five years as an Early Childhood Educator in Turkey. Through her work as a preschool teacher, Kaitlin developed a passion for and interest in early childhood cognitive & emotional development, school and community-based mental-health interventions, as well as the sociocultural influences on mental-health diagnoses and treatment. Kaitlin enjoys traveling, trying new foods, watching Turkish TV dramas, and spending time with her feline fur-child Marshall. She generally prefers cake over ice cream, but a scoop of peach ice cream will do in a pinch.

Yasmin Torres

Yasmin Torres, B.A.


Yasmin Torres, B.A., has been a current graduate student of the Clinical Psychology doctoral program since the summer of 2021. Prior to being accepted into this program, Yasmin received her B.A. in Sociology from UNCG in 2019. She wrote her Senior Honors Thesis, “​The Effects of Socioeconomic Status Contributes to Health Disparities”​, under the supervision of Dr. Shelly Brown-Jeffy, an associate professor in the Sociology Department. It was in studying Sociology that Yasmin realized what her research interests were. She is interested in the intersection of race, class and gender, with the accessibility of early childhood education, and early intervention for at-risk and low-income families. Additionally, Yasmin has been involved within the Parenting and School Readiness Lab since the Spring 2018 semester-in various capacities. Yasmin enjoys listening to true-crime podcasts and watching true-crime shows, in her free time. She also enjoys rewatching the same shows and movies such as The George Lopez Show, Superstore, and The Shining. Her favorite ice cream flavor is Vanilla, especially with sprinkles!

Anyela Jacome, M.P.S.

Anyela Jacome, M.P.S.


Anyela Jacome, M.P.S. is a current graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at UNCG. She received her BS (2016) and her Masters in Clinical Psychological Science (2020) from the University of Maryland, College Park. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, Anyela was a research assistant at the University of Maryland with several faculty members that studied early intervention and prevention factors for children and families, clinical symptomatology and social impairments in transdiagnostic samples of persons with psychosis, and risk and resilience in a cultural context for diverse youth. Her experiences have reinforced her interests in risk and protective factors for children and families in the context of culture (e.g., acculturation). Anyela enjoys trips to Target, listening to music, watching anime, k-dramas, reality T.V. shows, and hanging out with her favorite fur child Kiba. Her favorite ice-cream is cookies ‘n cream, but she does not favor one sweet over another.

Selected Publications

Mendez Smith, J., LaForett, D, Quick, K.N.*, & Villa, R. (2022). Parent and family engagement in early education programs. In A. Morris & J. Mendez Smith (Eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Parenting: Interdisciplinary Research and Application. Cambridge.

Mendez Smith, J., LaForett, D.R*., Hyun, S., Bailey, J., & Raina, S*. (2022). Capturing socialization experiences for culturally diverse, low-income preschool children: Measurement of parent beliefs about play across cultures. Brookes.

Westerberg, D.*, Newland, R., & Mendez, J. L. (2020). Beyond the Classroom: The Protective Role of Student–Teacher Relationships on Parenting Stress. Early Childhood Education Journal, 48(5), 633–642.

Mendez Smith, J. (2020). Early childhood education programs as protective experiences for low-income Latino children and their families. Adversity and Resilience Science, 1(3), 191-204.

Mendez, J. (2018). Policy and practices to improve access to early care and education (ECE) for low-income Hispanic families. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families.

LaForett, D.R*, & Mendez, J.L., (2017) Play beliefs and responsive parenting among low-income mothers of preschoolers in the United States, Early Child Development and Care, 187(8), 1359-1371,

Mendez, J., & Westerberg, D.* (2012). Implementation of a Culturally Adapted Treatment to Reduce Barriers for Latino Parents. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18, 363–372.

*School Readiness and Parenting Lab Student or Alumni