Early Childhood Success

early childhood
early childhood

The Early Childhood Success team provides city leaders with tools to help them build strong early learning communities that serve young children ages 0- to 8-years-old and their families. With diversified funding from national foundations and partners, the ECS team brings city leaders together from across the country to help them achieve their shared mission: to lead thriving cities.

Our vision is that cities, towns, and villages are places where all children reach their full potential, where families feel supported and can live safe and healthy lives. We offer city leaders a framework for early childhood systems building and alignment at the local level. We help them convene local leaders and stakeholders to develop shared goals and act together to put families at the center and promote policies, practices, programs, and services that improve outcomes for all children. We offer city leaders a platform to share their efforts and learn from each other. Currently, we are working in 35 cities across the country.

Why should city officials lead on early childhood? We know that most brain development occurs in the first few years of life and that these first few years matter immensely. We know that the earlier children are on the path to success, the more likely they are to achieve positive outcomes academically, socially, emotionally and physically. City leaders have a stake in how well children in their cities are doing. Investing early will mean better academic outcomes, less crime, better health outcomes, a more prepared workforce, increased earnings and less spending on social services long term. When our children thrive, our cities thrive.

Who We Are

The YEF Institute’s early childhood success team has collaborated with and provided technical assistance (TA) to over 50 communities, collectively impacting more than 2 million children younger than age eight. The early childhood success team has deep knowledge of what building multi-sector partnerships on behalf of young children requires and how to leverage municipal governance structures, policies and practices to reach across communities and improve early childhood outcomes. The Institute’s nearly two decades of work to strengthen the capacity of city officials as early childhood leaders forged a powerful platform that supports future efforts, frameworks for municipal leaders to use when reaching across their communities and a roadmap for building shared visions of early childhood success to drive future progress.  

Meet the team dedicated to this work.

Jammie AlbertJammie Albert: As program manager, Jammie works to build the capacity of city leaders to develop and sustain early childhood systems that support families of parents and children in the early years beginning prenatal through age three. She provides technical assistance to develop and strengthen the local infrastructure of cities and communities through tools for programmatic action and promising best practices to invest in the development and healthy growth of children.

Nancy Lim Nancy Zuech Lim: As program manager, Nancy Zuech Lim, works to improve the capacity of city leaders and their community partners to align efforts and policies and develop equitable systems that support young children and their families.  With a continuous process improvement approach, technical assistance efforts focus on understanding both assets and needs and leveraging municipal governance structures, policies, and practices to reach across communities and improve early childhood outcomes. Prior to joining NLC, Nancy was the Executive Director of Community Health and Benefit for Saint Thomas Health, leading strategic planning and reporting of community benefit activities. She earned a Master of Public Health from the University of South Florida, Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Ithaca College.

Tonja RuckerDr. Tonja Rucker: As director, Tonja works directly with mayors, city councilmembers, and other municipal officials to create local systems of support for parents, children, and youth in their communities. Tonja works with senior city staff on forming effective local planning teams, assessing community needs, developing outcomes-based early care and education plans, and designing implementation strategies. Prior to joining NLC, Tonja served as transition coordinator for Baltimore City Head Start and as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Kathryn ShibuyaKathryn Shibuya: Kathryn, as senior program specialist, works with cities to implement programs and policies which improve the quality of training and supports for the early childhood workforce. She also supports implementation efforts on grants and provides support to the Program Director. Prior to joining NLC, Kathryn supported strong state-level early childhood professional development systems at Child Care Aware of America.

Anna WhiteAnna White: As program manager, Anna oversees the Early Learning Nation initiative, designed to help support municipal leaders in building strong early childhood systems that support young children and their families. Before joining NLC, Anna worked for the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, supporting funding to build a neighborhood-based quality improvement system for early childhood development providers. Previously she was director of state affairs for the National Head Start Association and worked for several years in the Alaska State Department of Education’s Head Start Collaboration Office.

Our Funders and Partners: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Foundation for Child Development, Pritzker Children’s Initiative, and the Vanguard Foundation.

Our Initiatives

City Leadership For Building an Early Learning Nation

NLC’s City Leadership for Building an Early Learning Nation initiative helps communities strengthen or build early childhood education systems. 

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Educational Alignment for Young Children

NLC's Aligning the Early Childhood System initiative strengthens local leader’s capacity to reach across neighborhoods, align programs, design policies and ultimately build systems that are responsive and supportive.  Aligned early care and education systems promote early learning experiences, healthy development of children and increases the likelihood that children will achieve educational success by the end of third grade. NLC’s alignment initiatives focus on early care and education alignment for children from birth to age eight.

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Cities Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce

NLC’s Cities Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce initiative helps local leaders ensure that early childhood educators have the support and resources they need to provide a quality early learning experience so all children in their care thrive and reach their full potential. 

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Cities Supporting a Strong Prenatal to Age 3 Agenda

NLC’s Cities Supporting a Strong Prenatal to Age 3 Agenda initiative offers city leaders guidance and support to establish and strengthen strategies to achieve better outcomes for their youngest residents prenatal to age three. All children need access to quality early learning experiences to ensure a good start in life.

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Additional Initiatives

Early Childhood Well-being

The experiences in early childhood have a lasting impact on health and well-being.  NLC is providing focused technical assistance and serves as a partner for Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village Networks’ Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing initiative generously supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Grade Level Reading

NLC has been a major partner in the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading by supporting city efforts to boost reading proficiency. The campaign was a collaborative, 10-year effort by dozens of foundations and organizations across the country to increase the number of low-income children who read at grade level by the end of third grade - a key developmental milestone and indicator of future academic success.

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See the latest NLC blogs on early childhood here.


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