As Thanksgiving approaches, we all look forward to extra days off and the lavish meal that the holiday brings. We also do our best to remind ourselves that we have so much more than time off and a great meal to be thankful for - including everything from warm winter coats to the comfort of our loved ones. At BUILD, we believe that standing out among our riches are the people and efforts serving young children and families. As they take our field in bold directions, often despite daunting challenges, many inspire us on a personal level. We want to recognize them by sharing them with you here. BUILD staff members give thanks to:
Yoland Trevino and her spirit of community-building work with the Pasadena/Altadena Coalition of Transformative Leaders – which models inclusion and diversity and is a shining “point of light” in its community. Yolanda reminds and models for me the fact that such community-building is possible everywhere when leadership is shared and spread and supported in all its potential variants – and it only requires looking for it through encouraging eyes and then giving the time, space, and opportunity for the leadership in each of us to grow and flourish. Charlie Bruner
The opportunity to work with and be a part of the extraordinary team that is BUILD, and to work with and learn from the passionate group that is the Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN). In their applications, the current ELAN members recounted events, remarks, insults, injuries, conversations, situations, epiphanies, and the autobiographical motivation for their initial steps toward the work they now do. Their courage excites me and I am thankful for the chance to join them in their effort.
The countless community leaders across our country who are on the ground level, doing the important work of building the early childhood system, collaborating with their community partners, working directly with families and all sectors of the early childhood workforce, seeing the gaps and trying to fill them and doing all this work on a shoestring and with so much dedication. They deal with the realities of this work on a day-to-day basis and are the front line of assuring a world in which every child arrives at school healthy and ready for success in school and in life.
The early childhood philanthropic leaders, for recognizing the need for boldness, their willingness to fund innovations for which there is not yet evidence, and their readiness to leap toward opportunities and to fill gaps. I am grateful for their sense of humor and humility and their recognition that achieving the best outcomes for all children requires a collaboration among partners—state public and private sector leaders, community and neighborhood leaders, funders and grantees, health and early learning, policy makers and families.
The families and caregivers who take the time to participate in focus groups that help us to hone in on the best ways to engage them. It is their informed and vital input that leads to services that most effectively ensure that all children are supported to achieve optimal growth and development. In Georgia, for example, focus groups recently informed the task force that came together to consider the state’s position on family engagement. This activity eventually led to the creation of a statewide family engagement training.
The early learning educators who work daily with families to support, care for and teach our country’s and the world’s children. They wear the many hats required of the job yet often are undercompensated for their important efforts. They bear a great responsibility for the next generation as they note potential, encourage good effort, wipe away tears, support skill development, and help children stretch their minds and abilities. These dedicated individuals - working to improve their craft, planning the next activity, keenly observing children, spending an extra moment with a child, coworker, or parent - make a difference in our future.
The early childhood leaders who work tirelessly on the systems building and state policies required to address the needs of infant, toddlers and their families. These leaders push past those who say it’s difficult, and adhere to the brain science to figure out how to best support families and their partnerships with health providers, family support, and early educators. This intense effort creates the relationships and community environments that enable the foundation to be laid for every child’s success.
The advocates - often our unsung heroes – who work, month after month, year after year, finding ways to tell the stories that will compel policymakers and opinion leaders to understand what we know to be true about investing in early childhood. They are willing to keep knocking on closed doors and talking to people who don’t want to listen. They stand up to arguments, both reasonable and not, and they figure out how to tell our stories in new ways even when they have told them a thousand times before. They are committed, persistent and, I believe, courageous.
Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s new health commissioner, who believes in long-term solutions to inequities, not stop-gap measures to mask their symptoms. Dr. Wen says it is not enough, for example, to provide inhalers for the fifty percent of children in some kindergarten classrooms with asthma; we also need to deal with the reasons that poor kids are so much more likely than rich ones to have the condition to begin with. She blames the violence and drug abuse of many youth less on the youth themselves than on the lack of core necessities available to them, such as mental health support and access to quality education. Dr. Wen is putting into action a vision we all share: the creation of opportunities for all children to thrive.
The passion of the individuals and efforts named here - and that of so many others we could have named - is breathtaking. We thank them for the motivation they provide us, not only to keep working toward BUILD’s goal to best prepare all young children to succeed in school and in life, but to consider what more we each can do, as individuals and as part of a larger entity, to further this goal. This Thanksgiving, we hope you will consider who or what effort in our field inspires you and how that inspiration can intensify the great work you already do.
We wish you a warm and wonderful holiday, filled with many reasons to give thanks.