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The Experience

The Experience

The Illinois Early Childhood Fellows Program offered outstanding opportunities to prepare Fellows for leadership roles in early childhood.

Fellows joined leading public policy and systems change organizations (Voices for Illinois Children, Illinois Action for Children, Latino Policy Forum, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Positive Parenting DuPage, and HealthConnect One) in a variety of leadership positions. They took responsibility for significant research and action-oriented projects, both in their placements and in collaboration with other Fellows.

Learning opportunities included a seminar series, organized by Erikson Institute, with leading practitioners and community leaders, workshops on leadership and making change, and an individual expense allowance to support participation in conferences and professional development opportunities of each Fellow’s choosing. Fellows also gained experience in grant writing and reporting, project design and management, and other areas.

Top leaders from Illinois’ nationally recognized early childhood community served as mentors. In addition, Fellows had extensive opportunities to network with leaders in the field – state legislators and other public officials, foundation leaders, scholars, and advocates.

Selected through a highly competitive process, Fellows served for two years. A generous stipend supported their participation.

Fellows activities included:

Fellows Seminar
Professional Development and Networking
Projects & Presentations 

Fellows Seminar
Fellows met every month in a day-long seminar, organized by Erikson Institute. Seminars addressed three themes: early childhood issues, leadership, and making change.

2011-12 Seminars have included orientation to the program (along with mentors, the program’s co-chairs, and the 2009-2011 Fellows); a session about DISC (a leadership assessment tool) and a discussion with young nonprofit leaders of color; a day-long training in strategic communications (which several Fellow colleagues also attended); and conversations with lobbyists, advocates, legislators, state agency leaders, and staff of the Governor's office in Springfield, IL.

Professional Development and Networking
Fellows frequently attended events and conferences to meet colleagues, learn about the field, and build their networks.  2011-13 Fellows have attended:

  • Ounce of Prevention Advocacy Day, Springfield, IL
  • Voices for Illinois Children Kids Count Symposium
  • Harris Early Childhood Speakers Series
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children National Conference
  • Zero to Three National Training Institute
  • Statewide Conference for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students
  • National Council of La Raza Annual Conference
  • Illinois Infant Mental Conference
  • Healthy Teen Network Annual Conference
  • White House Connecting Communities for the Common Good Conference
  • Chicago Forward: Education
  • Lillian and Larry Goodman Annual Hunger Forum
  • Family Focus Symposium

The Fellows were encouraged to take advantage of other training opportunities, including workshops, webinars,and conferences on topics that included:

  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • Grant writing
  • Presentations
  • Management
  • Facilitator training
  • Undoing racism

Projects & Presentations
Fellows were also encouraged to undertake projects with colleagues in their host organizations, with each other, and with experts in the field, and to present the results of their work at local and national conferences.