Early Childhood Advocacy Fellowship

The Early Childhood Advocacy Fellowship program is an initiative of PAEYC designed to develop new leaders in the region.

The goal of the Fellowship is for early childhood education and care professionals to grow as effective advocates by developing skills and strategies to engage and educate policy stakeholders at all levels of government.

Fellows come together for nine monthly workshops from January through September 2017. Through a combination of reflective and interactive experiences, the group will tackle topics such as: ECE Structures and Systems; A History of ECE Advocacy; and Crafting the Message & Building Relationships. Each fellow and his/her employer are provided with stipends for participation.

2017 PAEYC Early Childhood Advocacy Fellowship Cohort

Morgan Buck 
Student, University of Pittsburgh, Center for Urban Education

“I am very interested in refugee families, how to advocate for low income children and families and in working with women and girls. I hope to learn from the Fellowship how to access resources for all of them, network and learn more about organizations throughout the city.”


Jessica Conway
Early Childhood Educator and Parent 

“Through the Fellowship, I hope to expand ECE accessibility, decrease child care cost, increase teacher pay, and strengthen workforce stability.”


Mary Jo Chiodo
Pre-K Counts Teacher, Hosanna House Child Development Center

“Parent involvement and building bridges in the community are issues that drive my passion in early childhood learnings; through this program, I hope to specifically to find ways to help those who have adverse early experiences.”


Jodi Davenport
Senior Director of Education, Heritage Community Initiatives

“My goal for the program is to learn more about funding streams, especially for families who don't qualify for CCIS.”


Nancy Draftina
Program Coordinator, LEAP Preschool, The Watson Institute

“I often fear that funding will be limited and young children will not be supported in their developmental growth. In supporting all children in preschool/childcare, I don’t think children in the spectrum or teachers always get the appropriate support.”


Kim Eckel
Young Child Wellness Coordinator, Project LAUNCH

"The various systems and policies that support families with young children are complex to navigate.  I pursued this Fellowship in order to learn more about effective advocacy strategies and to learn from the experiences of others in the early childhood field."


Samantha Ellwood
Executive Director, Providence Connections

“I want to be able to create high quality, accessible early childhood education taught by well paid professionals. Personally I want to be able to learn the most effective way to advocate for the families and educators I serve.”


Becky Flaherty
Executive Director, Shady Lane School

"Personally I want to gain a better understanding of the issues that are important in early learning to others in the field and learn how to work with the parents in our center to tell their stories so they can advocate for what they are passionate about as well."


Nina Grenberg
Family Empowerment Specialist, Jeremiah’s Place/Berkman Family Center Preschool

“I have seen the challenges facing many of the families who come to Jeremiah’s Place - having no support, car, paid time off, low paying or no jobs, etc. I would like to become more aware of policies for families with young children and advocate for these families.”


Kelly Gustafson
Coordinator of Elementary Education, Federal Programs, and Instruction, Greensburg Salem School District

“I am finishing my doctoral studies at Duquesne University with an emphasis on issues of social justice. I have learned about the priorities of early childhood literacy needs and the impact of denied access. I hope to write for professional publications and speak about literacy issues publicly to educate others about these issues.”


Jourdan Hicks
Enrichment Coordinator, Center of Life

“I hope to achieve understanding, knowledge and direction with the Fellowship. Questions of who we deem worthy of receiving a quality education and what government is willing or unwilling to do to fund fair and equitable education. I am also concerned with parents not being invested in their children’s education and the relationship of educators with communities.”


Diane Kendall-Olmstead
Preschool Teacher, Redeemer Lutheran School

“I am passionate about keeping play-based learning that is developmentally appropriate for preschool children. Encouraged that preschool is now available for more children through the Pre-K Counts program, I hope to gain leadership skills and develop a stronger base and voice to share the necessity for quality early childhood experiences for children.”



Sherrie Klos
Center Director, KinderCare Learning Center

“I am searching for opportunities to gain as much knowledge as I can to make a difference, and welcome any opportunity to advocate for Early Childhood.”


Scott Miller
Principal, Avonworth Primary Center

“With a growing enrollment I’m looking to capture some energy for Pre-K and Kindergarten. My goal is to continue to support Pittsburgh as a hub for innovation through Remake Learning.”


Cindy Mondi
Kindergarten Teacher, Greensburg Salem School District

“I want to work on the issue of transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten and parent involvement. Motivated by the needs of children and families, I hope to achieve quality Pre-K and Kindergarten opportunities for all and meet others with ability to make these changes.”


Ivonne Ortega
Early Education Teacher, Cyert Center for Early Education

“I hope to redefine high quality early education to be culturally sensitive and inclusive with responsive curriculum. From the Fellowship, I want to learn about the "nuts and bolts" of ECE Advocacy and other issues in the field at local, state and national levels.”


Beth Rebholz
Director, Tender Care Learning Center

“I believe every child should have an opportunity to receive a quality early childhood experience and that more people need to be educated on the importance of early Childhood Education and how it is truly empowering.”


Cherie Sears
President, Village of FPC

“The ECE field is so piecemeal with a variety of options and quality levels. Children and families deserve better. I want to see better recognition of early childhood workers as professionals.”


Shellie Tantlinger
Head Start Teacher, Pittsburgh Public Schools

“My passion is not only working with children, but also their families. I want to learn how to better help families succeed in a world of so many inequalities and our community become one; where every family has access to high quality care/education they can afford. I also want to better educate those "in power" to understand not only the importance of early education, but also what is developmentally appropriate.”


Melissa Welsh
Principal, West Mifflin Area School District

“I am concerned about quality early education, access to resources and building positive relationships. Right now there are a lack of resources, knowledge of early education and connections to community based resources. I hope to learn how to connect public schools to a rich variety of community resources.”


Debbie Vereen
Assistant to the Superintendent, Woodland Hills School District

“Processes that focus on the development and facilitation of family engagement best practices drive my interests along with my desire to serve. My challenges include developing strategies to engage the families of early childhood learners and helping school districts utilize family engagement strategies with fidelity. I hope to build capacity within my school district to establish relationships with the families of early childhood learners to facilitate a smooth transition to Kindergarten.”