Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

For Cari Moore, being an early educator is, in part, a second chance to make up for time she lost when she was a child struggling with meningitis and severe allergies to foods, including peanut butter and chocolate. It was a tough time, but it led to a fulfilling career.

Moore’s family moved to the United States from Panama, and Moore grew up in Chelsea. Her mother spoke Spanish, but wanted Moore to speak English, so Moore decided to teach herself Spanish.

As Moore began thinking about careers, she drew on her own experience.

“I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician,” she says. “I wanted to do what doctors had done for me because I really appreciated that. But once I realized that child care and schools were an option, I realized I wanted to become a teacher. Even though doctors were important to me, so were teachers. When I missed school, it was my teachers who would come and see me. They would have packets for me.”

Moore also spent years being the youngest cousin in her family. And when a new cousin was born, when Moore was a teenager, she stepped up to babysit for that child. And, as a high school student, Moore traveled to Mexico where she worked in a camp, coming up with activities to help children learn more about their communities.

By the time Moore applied to college, she knew that she wanted to work with children, and she choose to attend Wheelock College. 

“Wheelock felt like home. It felt cozy,” she recalls. “I majored in psychology with a specialty in early education.” 


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Misael Carrasquillo

Leadership is about people who want to change the world – and it’s about the institutions that train these leaders. That’s why it’s an honor to recognize Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and Misael Carrasquillo, one of its graduates and employees.

Fifty years ago, Bunker Hill opened its doors to students. Since then it has become one of the most affordable, most diverse colleges in the state with two main campuses in Charlestown and Chelsea. 

Strategies for Children has hosted four interns from Bunker Hill in recent years, and while none of them have had early education experience, they have brought the invaluable gift of their life experiences, knowledge from their fields of study (business, political science, and communications), as well as their passion for social change.

Earlier this spring, Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, attended a Bunker Hill’s Strategic Planning Community Convening event where she met Misael Carrasquillo, who has devoted himself to learning everything he can so he can share his knowledge — and his institutional affiliations — with other people. 

“I went to the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester,” Carrasquillo explains, “and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. Like a lot of students, I was living in the present, enjoying what life had to offer in that moment.”

Carrasquillo had participated in the U.S. Marines Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). During his senior year, he was approached by a recruiter for the U.S. Marine Corps. So while his peers were worried about applying to college, Carrasquillo, who had his father’s support to enlist, was convincing his mother to sign the necessary paperwork.

“There was a $10,000 bonus that got me to say, yes. I had never seen that much money before, and my parents had never seen that much before.”


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Back when Barack Obama was president, Adrienne Armstrong worked in corporate marketing. Today, she’s a family child care provider and a member of the second cohort of Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network.

“My last job was at John Hancock. I was there for 15 years,” Armstrong says of the insurance company. Then she left. “It was the result of a layoff. You think the whole world is coming to an end, but I realized that was one chapter of my corporate career ending, and it was the beginning of my second career as an educator.

Armstrong used the time off to travel, work on her house, and figure out her next steps.

She had always loved children. She hadn’t had her own, but she had raised her niece and nephews. And when her colleagues brought their children to work, Armstrong would sit down on the floor, in her business suit, to play with the kids. 

 She decided to enroll at Endicott College and earn a degree in early education.

Then she decided to open her own child care business — Adrienne’s Day Academy — in Boston’s Roxbury community, where she had grown up.

“Now I joke that I’ll never put on another suit in my life. Who knew this transition would be so rewarding?” Armstrong says. She has now been an early education provider for 12 years. 


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Sharon Scott-Chandler

Sharon Scott-Chandler has spent years trying to make change.

“When I went to law school, I wanted to be a public defender. I wanted to represent my community. I grew up in Mattapan, and I wanted to provide people who couldn’t afford really good attorneys with a really good attorney,” Scott-Chandler says, recalling the days when she attended Northeastern University’s School of Law.

“But when I was in law school, I did a couple of co-ops,” Northeastern’s required, full-time job experiences, “and I decided being a public defender wasn’t the right place for me to make change.”

The right place, it turned out, was in the community.

Late last year, Scott-Chandler became the president and CEO of ABCD — Action for Boston Community Development — one of the country’s largest community action agencies. And ABCD’s mission is rooted in change, in helping people go “from poverty to stability and from stability to success.”

A big piece of this work focuses on young children.

Scott-Chandler was exposed to early childhood policy in the 1990s when she worked for Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, and she was inviting Dr. Barry Zuckerman to conferences. Zuckerman was a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center as well as the co-developer of the Reach-out and Read literacy program, and a powerful advocate for protecting children by promoting the well-being of their parents.


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Parents are sounding the alarm: in Boston, it’s hard to find child care.

A new report – (Re)Building Boston’s Early Education and Care Sector: Supply, Affordability and Quality Needed – offers policy solutions.

“Boston should be the best place in the country to raise a family, with high-quality, supportive child care programs and facilities accessible to all our residents,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu writes in a letter in the report’s opening pages. “But too often parents and caregivers across Boston’s neighborhoods face immense challenges finding quality, affordable care.”

The report, released by the Boston Opportunity Agenda’s Birth to Eight Collaborative, provides the proof. An analysis of Boston data from 2017 and 2020-2022 found in part that:

• in 2022, 76 percent of children age 2 or younger did not have access to formal child care

• In the past five years, the city lost nearly 20 percent of its family child care providers

• in 2022, on average, an estimated 39 percent of children aged birth to 5 years old lacked access to formal early education and care. “The access gap varied across neighborhoods, ranging from 5 percent in Roxbury to 61 percent in Charlestown.”

• “In 2022, the city-level quality gap for 0–5-year-olds in Boston was 69 percent.” The report defines the quality gap as the difference between “the total number of identified ‘high-quality’ education and care seats… and the number of children birth to 5 years of age… in a given geographical location, assuming all of these families would desire formal care near their homes.”


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“Covid provided an opportunity to really highlight this issue in ways that we’ve never seen. To have babies sitting behind Zoom cameras, to have toddlers trying to be busy while people were working from home; suddenly all the things we knew [about families’ early education and care needs] were in the public eye.

Ellis and SFC at BPR

Lauren Cook and Amy O’Leary at WGBH

“We have not changed our priorities even though the the brain science tells us how critical these early years are. So that’s what I’m hopeful for. It’s not just the people who work in this field, who have young children who are fighting for this. There’s been this bigger awareness of why we need high-quality programs starting at birth…”

— Amy O’Leary, “Boston Public Radio Full Show 4/18: Tax Day,” WGBH, April 18, 2023

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When Jayd Rodrigues was 12 years old, she wanted to be a pediatrician. 

“But not because I was interested in anything medical. It was because I liked working with children,” she says. 

Today Rodrigues is the executive director of early education at Horizons for Homeless Children, a Boston nonprofit, where she oversees 22 classrooms. She’s also a member of the second cohort of Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network.

Rodrigues’ story starts in Cape Verde where she was born.

“I immigrated here with my family when I was 2 ½ years old,” she explains. “So I’m from Boston. I grew up in Dorchester, as the middle one of five children, and I’m still in the neighborhood.” 

Rodrigues’ parents, who have been together for 53 years, don’t speak English, so Rodrigues speaks English and Cape Verde creole. When she enrolled in Suffolk University, she did so as the first generation in her family to attend college.

“My parents are the catalyst for where I am today. Even though they don’t speak English, and they haven’t gone to college, they consistently are my cheerleaders. And they’ve allowed me always to be who I am without hesitation.” Which includes, Rodrigues says, her life as a member of the LGBTQ community and her role as a foster parent.

“Near the end of my time at Suffolk, Jumpstart came and did a presentation about their AmeriCorps program, which trains college students to provide language, literacy and social -emotional programming in preschool programs.”

Rodrigues signed up for Jumpstart and worked alongside students from Harvard, Boston University, and Wellesley College, but found herself sharing less than she might have – until a Jumpstart coach who saw Rodrigues’ passion for children said, There’s something special about you.


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The second cohort of Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network is underway, and we’re excited to share the stories of this year’s participants. 



MyHanh Barrette

MyHanh Barrette moved from Vietnam to the United States when she was 11 years old, and her path to advocacy started with figuring out her own strengths and then helping to elevate the strengths of the families she works with.

One tool she uses in her work is love. 

“If I don’t love my community, if I don’t love my country, then I won’t want to change anything,” she says. “If I don’t love an organization, if I don’t love my school, I won’t want to improve them.”

Barrette’s professional story began years ago with a practical question. 

“My Mom and Stepfather said, Okay, are you going to be a doctor, a pharmacist, an engineer, or a lawyer?” 

Barrette made a practical choice and graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a computer science degree – which she never used in her work. Instead, she became a court-certified interpreter, helping families who spoke Vietnamese access the legal system. 

“Language was used as a commodity, as part of the power dynamic: You don’t have access to language and I do, so I’m going to assume that because you don’t speak English, you’re ‘less than’ in every other aspect,” Barrette says. 

“As an interpreter, I was there to remove the language barrier. When I did that, I saw other barriers that these families faced. But even with these barriers, families were thriving in their own ways. They were facing so much, but they were resourceful, and they were strength-based. I learned so much from them, and I came to see myself as a facilitator, as someone who empowers families.” 

In her spare time, Barrette helped lead a co-ed Scout troop, which built on her love of children. She went on to raise her own children, and as they grew, she thought she might want to be a teacher. A trip to the library changed that. A career coach, who was volunteering at the library, listened to Barrette and said, You don’t want to be a teacher. You want to be a social worker


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The pandemic wiped out part of Massachusetts’ child care workforce.

Now Boston is trying to rebuild.

And the scale of this challenge is substantial.

“The childcare industry in Massachusetts lost about 10% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic,” WBUR radio reports. “In Boston, that’s translating into long wait lists and shorter hours of care. According to city officials, about 50 early education classrooms are sitting empty because child care centers can’t find enough people to operate at capacity.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu “was quick to point out that the estimate doesn’t include centers that have had to cut hours because they’re short staffed.”

To address this daunting gap, the city is using $7 million from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act to launch the Growing the Workforce Fund.

The fund will provide scholarships and financial aid to 800 students who want to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

“Today’s investment is a welcome one for early educators like me,” Lisa Brooks, an early educator at Horizons for Homeless Children, says in a city press release. “Relieving the burden of debt associated with higher education will help educators continue to focus on the important work of building the foundation for our students’ future success.”


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One of the most important lessons you learn in a conversation with Mo Barbosa is that everything in youth development work is – or should be – connected.

“The better we do with zero to five,” Barbosa says of working with young children, “the better we’re going to do with the next 10 to 15 years of development.”

Barbosa is the senior director of Community Engagement at Health Resources in Action, where his goal as a trainer and facilitator is to professionalize the youth work field. He is the facilitator for convenings of The Early Childhood Agenda, which are hosted by Strategies for Children.

Barbosa’s sweeping focus is on the zero-to-24 age range – “or 24-ish” he says, “as we’re starting to understand the brain, we’re going a little bit later.”

But instead of a well-paved road that leads from birth to early adulthood, children and families in Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — face a fractured system. 

“There has been this historic difference between where you get child care and how much of it is early education and how much of it is just a place to put your kid,” Barbosa says. “And that difference has dictated quality. It has dictated pay. And it has dictated opportunity.”

Barbosa recalls running an early childhood program in St. Louis where children who lived in local housing projects would not go to kindergarten because they could not pass the screening test. Instead, they would enter first grade as six-year-olds with no early childhood classroom experiences.

The solution?


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