National League of Cities Announces Inaugural Class of Early Childhood Municipal Fellows

June 23, 2020 - (3 min read)

Washington, D.C. – The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families (NLC YEF Institute) proudly announces the inaugural cohort of Early Childhood Municipal Fellows. Over the next 18 months, the NLC YEF Institute will equip fellows with the knowledge and skills to navigate the political landscape and leverage municipal policies and practices to help address longstanding inequities embedded in local government institutions that have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and highlighted by recent political uprisings. 

“By building a network of local leaders and investing in their development, we will work to ensure that the success of every young child is at the center of local government decision-making,” said Tonja Rucker, Director of Early Childhood Success at the National League of Cities. “Local governments are centers of innovation and the work of our fellows, supported by our YEF experts, will move our country forward in creating communities where every child succeeds, and all families thrive.”

This is the first fellowship program for the NLC YEF Institute and is an integral part of the Institute’s national efforts to support leaders and build thriving communities that work for children and families beginning prenatally. The fellowship is a leadership development and peer learning program that aims to accelerate local leaders’ ability to serve as champions for young children and families. Fellows will delve into key fundamentals that are the bedrock of impactful municipal policy for early childhood success: embedding equity in how business is done; policy and practice evaluation; the examination of local leadership and governance structures; collaboration across departments; the alignment of city, county and state objectives; and the financing and resourcing of programs and services.
The fellows selected for their exemplary leadership and work in early childhood within their communities are: 

  • Sarah Baray, Chief Executive Officer, Pre-K 4 SA, City of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
  • Risha Berry, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Education: Department of Educational Leadership/Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation: Urban Education & Family Urban Education & Family Transdisciplinary Core, Richmond, Virginia
  • Graham Dobson, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Early Care and Education, San Francisco, California
  • Ariel Ford, Deputy Administrator, Office of Early Learning, Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Erica Johnson, Education Policy Advisor, Mayor Durkan’s Office, City of Seattle, Seattle, Washington
  • Coral Manning, Early Care and Education Manager, Division of Community Development, City of Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Kyra Mungia, Deputy Director of Education, Office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland, California
  • Tony Peyton, Program Director, C.E. and S. Foundation, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Jovanna Rohs, Director of Early Learning, Mid-America Regional Council, Kansas City, Missouri 
  • Tiffini Simoneaux, Youth & Education Manager, Office of Equity – Office of Mayor William Peduto, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Municipal leaders across the nation are re-imagining our local early learning systems to work more collaboratively and more efficiently to drive toward better outcomes for their residents. The fellowship is generously supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, and Pritzker Children’s Initiative and builds on continuing work within the YEF Institute and across NLC to strengthen local early learning systems prenatally through age eight. 



The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.