Policymakers need to hear from experts.

That’s why Strategies for Children has created a Speakers’ Bureau, a group of 15 early educators who can talk to the media or testify at the State House.

These early educators were nominated by partner organizations. They represent the racial and geographic diversity of the field as well as the different settings where early educators work. And the early educators participated in a seven-session training program that was held on Zoom and covered:

• knowing your “why”

• Advocacy 101

• equity in early education

• public speaking

• working with legislators

• talking to the media, and

• a session for reflection

Funding was generously provided by the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation.

A key goal of the bureau is to unite early educators into an advocacy community.

So far, the outcomes have been positive.

As one participant, Dottie Williams, a family child care program owner in Boston, says in the video posted above, the program provided support for early educators and created a space where they could share their thoughts. Another crucial benefit, Williams says, was getting “to have the data to support you in your endeavors so that your voice can make a difference.”

Speaking in Spanish, Ana Rivas, a family child care owner in Springfield, adds, “I was always shy about talking to people and afraid to speak up about my concerns.” But thanks to the Speakers Bureau training, she feels comfortable speaking up to defend the rights of the children she cares for, their families, and herself.

Luisa Palladino, director of the Westborough Childcare Center at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, says, “I feel as though we are heard differently and maybe not taken as seriously as other professions due to the young age of the children, or possibly because the field is made up of women and minorities. It is so important to find new and innovative ways to help our early educators feel as though they do matter and to find a platform for them to communicate their thoughts and concerns.”

And Marybeth Brown, who works at the Seven Hills Foundation, a Child Care Resource and Referral agency, explains, “We all need to share our story. We all need to be part of the solution.”

To make the program accessible, meetings were held at night and simultaneous English/Spanish interpretation was offered. Participants earned 10 professional development hours and they received a $500 stipend.

At the end of each session, participants were asked for feedback that Strategies staff used to improve the next session.

“We had good content. We had incredible participants,” Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children says. “Each week was more inspiring as participants learned together, asked thoughtful questions, brainstormed solutions, and had the opportunity to practice sharing their stories and expertise. The experience had a big impact on our strategic planning and on the future direction of our organization.”

To learn more about the Speakers Bureau, please contact Marisa Fear, Strategies’ associate director of research and policy at mfear@strategiesforchildren.org.