Early Childhood Success
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.
Jammie Albert: Jammie serves as a Principal Associate for the Early Childhood Success Team in the Institute for Youth Education and Families at the National League of Cities (NLC). Jammie's focus is the Cities Supporting a Strong Prenatal to Age 3 Agenda project. Within that project, she 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. Prior to joining the NLC team, Jammie served as a Human Service Worker, Family Service for Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Head Start, and as a Family-Centered Specialist for the Mentor Network Institute for Families Centered Services. She obtained a Master degree in education from Carlow University and a Bachelor of Arts in mass media communications from Wilberforce University.
Vera Feeny: Vera serves as an Associate for both the Early Childhood Success and Connecting Children to Nature teams in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities. She supports technical assistance initiatives aimed at creating local systems of support for early learning and connecting children to nature. She is excited at opportunities that connect both program areas and has special interests in family and community engagement, early literacy, and how the built environment can support healthy development and early learning.
Prior to joining the NLC team, Vera received a Master of Education in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Vera has interned for a children’s book series, Gusto & Gecko, and in early childhood advocacy at Jumpstart. Before attending graduate school, she taught English in Spain and worked in developmental psychology research at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Nancy Zuech Lim: Nancy Zuech Lim, MPH, CPH is a Program Manager for Early Childhood Success in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities. Nancy works with city leaders; manages and leads implementation efforts on grants and provides support to the program director.
Ms. Lim is a community health-focused professional with Certification in Public Health and diverse training and experience in public health, nursing, and accounting. Prior to joining NLC, she was the Executive Director of Community Health and Benefit for Saint Thomas Health, responsible for assisting the health system in its strategic planning, implementing, tracking and reporting of community benefit activities throughout Middle Tennessee. She worked with other non-profit and public-sector agencies to collaboratively assess and address the priority health needs of the community and facilitated local meetings related to community health. Ms. Lim served as a member of the Healthy Nashville Leadership Council 2013-2015 and as the Council chair during 2015.
She completed her 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 Rucker: Tonja currently serves as the Director for Early Childhood Success in the Institute for Youth Education and Families at the National League of Cities. She is responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of the Institute’s work plans and long-term strategies for early education. She conceptualizes and leads efforts to identify and document best practices and promising initiatives, oversees the implementation of TA, and contributes to the overall management of the Institute, including strategic planning, coordination of cross-program initiatives, and identification and cultivation of prospective funders.
Tonja works directly with mayors, city councilmembers, and other municipal officials in creating local systems of support for parents, children, and youth in their communities. By helping cities develop the necessary local infrastructure and providing concrete ideas and tools for policy and programmatic action, a significant number of cities and towns have positioned themselves as models for investing in children’s healthy growth and development. Additionally, she 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 the NLC team, Tonja served as Transition Coordinator for Baltimore City Head Start and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland College Park. She serves on a variety of boards and committees, supporting and advising national and local work for young children. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland College Park and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College.
Our Funders and Partners:
W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Foundation for Child Development, Pritzker Children’s Initiative, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Boston Medical Center, Vital Village Network
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce (6/2019)
- Leveraging Alternative Policy Levers to Build a Strong Early Learning System (3/2019)
- Promising Local Initiatives to Finance Early Care and Education (10/2018)
- Family Engagement: Making Connections and Building a No Wrong Door (7/2018)
- Leveraging Technology to Improve ECE Enrollment (6/2018)
- Family Engagement: Beyond the Basics (4/2018)
- Partnering with Workforce Development to Support the Early Childhood Workforce (1/2018)
- Equity and the Early Childhood Workforce (11/2017)
- Early Childhood Network Webinar Series: Partnerships (9/2017)
See the latest NLC blogs on early childhood here.
- NLC's Early Learning Nation Expands (1/17/19)
- The Future of Work Begins with a City's Youngest Residents (1/4/19)
- Austin Steps Up Efforts to Improve Access to High-Quality Child Care (1/3/19)
- Building an Early Learning Community Starts with Alignment (12/4/18)
- Community Leaders Come Together to Build Networks of Opportunity for Child Well-Being (12/10/18)
- City Leaders as Champions for Early Learning (11/8/18)
- Great Workforce Development Means Giving Children a Strong Start (5/24/18)
- In Hartford, Connecticut, a Breakthrough for Early Childhood Educators (2/12/18)
- Don't Cut Funding for Programs That Help Children Thrive in Cities Across the Country (4/11/17)
- Local Leaders Take on Tough Issues to Support the Early Childhood Workforce (2/14/17)
- Seven Cities Work with NLC to Build Early Learning Communities (12/20/16)
- Innovative City Program Teaches Civic Engagement to Parents (10/3/16)
- Looking to Expand Early Education Programs? We've Got You Covered (8/4/16)
- Investing in Early Childhood Education through the Shared Services Model (6/5/15)
- Coming Soon
In the News
- Small, ESUs Part of Early Childhood Initiative, The Milford Times (2/2018)
- Early Learning Plan in Partnership Between New Orleans, Advocacy Group, The Times-Picayune (2/2018)
- Waterbury School Officials Hope Partnership Will Boost Early Learning Services, The Republican American (2/2018)
- University of Mississippi EdsUp! Podcast featuring Dr. Tonja Rucker (12/2018)
- First 5 LA Helps Cities take the Lead in ECE (11/2018)
- Early Learning Nation Video: How to Build Early Learning Featuring Dr. Tonja Rucker (11/2018)
- Cities Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce
- Why Early Childhood?
- Needs, Quality, and an Effective Child Care Workforce in a Growing Gig Economy
- Alignment Framework Brief
- Strong Start for Strong Cities
- Early Learning Communities Action Kit
- Equitable Early Care and Education: An Alignment Framework
- Early Childhood Alignment Rating Tool: A Companion Tool for the Equitable Early Care and Education: An Alignment Framework
- Early Learning Nation Poster
- Equitable Early Care and Education: An Alignment Framework Poster