This blog post is part of the On Your Mind series featuring local leaders and early childhood champions across the country. NLC’s Early Childhood Success team supports members so every city, town, and village has healthy babies and happy families, and all children are thriving by 3, ready at 5, and on their way by 8, So All Children Thrive. For more information on NLC’s early childhood work, contact the team at ECteam@nlc.org and sign up for the quarterly newsletter.
National League of Cities: What is one thing keeping you up at night when you think about the young children and families in your community?
Councilman Awet Eyasu: There is a plethora of things that concern me; it’s hard to narrow it down to only one thing. One thing I think about a lot, though, is the increasing challenge that many people in my community have in accessing the information and resources they need to thrive, particularly families with young children. Since COVID, it has become clear that a large portion of our community relies on person-to-person communication. Yet, so many systems are moving to more streamlined, web or app-based methods of communicating for employment and education, which is a huge challenge for the growing immigrant population in Clarkston and those for whom English is a second language. As families are pressured to spend more of their energy and resources navigating these challenges, my fear is that they’ll inevitably have less to pour into their children’s learning.
NLC: How as a municipal leader are you keeping the early childhood community, young children and their families at the center of local governance?
AE: One unique thing about Clarkston is that nearly a quarter of our city’s population is between the age of 0-9. As a Council Member, this certainly shapes a lot of how I think about serving the community. My perspective is greatly influenced as a father of four children—two of which attend Clarkston public schools. From working to make sure that Clarkston is walkable for children and that our parks are engaging and accessible, to being involved in the City’s Early Learning Task Force, partnering with a local nonprofit early childhood coalition and being a founding member of the Early Learning Nation Collective Steering Committee, I make sure young children are top of mind for the City. I look forward to seeing the City play an even larger role in early childhood in the coming years.
NLC: What is one way your city is supporting early childhood opportunities?
AE: Clarkston has some great opportunities for families to get involved, but the most significant way we support early childhood is by investing in the City’s infrastructure, which directly impacts children. When families are healthy and safe in their homes, we know that young children will be much more likely to thrive. For example, with support from NLC’s Local Infrastructure Hub, Clarkston was awarded $1 million in 2023 as part of the Safe Streets and Roads for All federal grant, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The City prioritizes policies like this that help keep children safe, which greatly benefit the whole community.