Felicia Billy head shot

We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here, here, here, and here.

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Felicia Billy was working at a privately owned child care center — and applying for early education jobs at the YMCA of Greater Boston.

What made the Y attractive? 

“The benefits,” Billy says.

This sounds like a personal issue, but Billy is also putting her finger on the fact that so many early educators don’t have the kind of benefits – such as retirement savings plans — that K-12 educators and many other professionals can take for granted.

The Y also offered another perk that other early childhood programs don’t: a career ladder. Billy started as a teacher, became a curriculum coordinator, next she was the assistant early education director, and then she moved into her current position as the early education director.

The Y also allows for Billy’s creativity. 

“I love that kids learn from hands-on experiences,” she says. That’s why she’s had step dancers perform and teach simple steps to the children at the Y. Billy has also invited the Bubble Lady to come and the Reptile Man. Billy held a paint night for children and parents, giving parents the chance to feel like kids again.

What attracted Billy to the Advocacy Network? 

“At the first meeting, Amy said something about, Say what you have to say,” Billy says of Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children. “That was a big thing for me because I get stage fright when I have to speak and many people are watching me.”

“But thanks to being the Advocacy Network, I was just able to pitch an idea to the Y’s CEO. Before, I never would have done that. I would have just been sitting in the background. I would have let my direct supervisor push my idea up the ladder.”

Her idea?

”I asked if we could do an EPCOT night. We had a donor coming. And it was a little intimidating because she’s a billionaire.” 

The event was already going to have a focus on antisemitism, and Billy suggested adding an anti-racism component and having parents be involved. The EPCOT night she proposed would allow all children and families in her program to highlight and share their culture while learning more about the cultures and traditions of their peers.

The outcome? Everyone loved Billy’s ideas.

Billy has also been doing Advocacy 101 training with her staff to help them boost their family engagement efforts.

“A lot of the families we work with are low income, so it’s important to have that extra piece of, How can I engage with my child and understand what they’re up to do all day. My goal is to have early family engagement that sets a foundation for being involved when families move on to grade school, so parents feel that they can go and see what’s happening in the schools.”

Additionally, Billy is taking what she learned from the Advocacy Network and Strategies for Children’s 9:30 Calls and sharing these lessons with her staff and colleagues, passing on tips about grants and about what issues legislators are interested in. She has also participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Boston Education Funders.

“So many things are happening, but sometimes you’re so immersed in your job that you don’t get involved. You’re concerned, but at the same time, you’re just trying to get through each day.

”So it makes a difference when you know that other people that have authority care about what’s happening in the greater picture. And it makes a difference when you know more about how to get involved.“