Young Leaders

Young Leader: Kayla’s experience at the Rhode Island Early Childhood Conference

When I entered the Sheraton Airport Hotel in Warwick on December 1st, I had no idea who or what to expect at my first RIAEYC event. I was invited to RI Early Childhood Conference Leadership Reception along with the other founding members of RIAEYC’s Young Leaders Community of Practice (YLCP) and Honorees of the evening,  

After checking in, I was told my seat was not next to familiar faces, but at the reserved table of Young Leaders. Introductions and plates were made, and soon I was chatting and eating with RIAEYC staff members Alyson Panzarella and Angela Ortiz and the fellow 20 to 30-year-olds with a passion for early child care and education. While finishing up our meals, we listened to speakers from the RIAEYC board and honoree’s acceptance speeches. Little did the fellow young leaders and I know that we would soon be walking up to the stage to accept certificates denoting us as the founding members of Rhode Island’s YLCP. It felt odd and exciting to hear my name proclaimed as a young leader, while in the company of some of the most inspiring women in Rhode Island Early Care and Education. After awards, speeches, and photos had concluded, it was time for the Keynote.

Before this conference I was unfamiliar with Stacie Goffin and the fact that Early Care and Education is not a profession. As she warned us, my natural response was frustration and denial. How could she?! We work hard, we’re educated, we’re essential, we MUST be professionals. Then, she continued speaking and the truth was undeniable. Thankfully Stacie did not just shatter our beliefs and leave us listless. She taught the room what distinguished professions from other occupations, noted the difficulties of the steps to professionalism, and made her case for why child care deserves to be a recognized profession. By the end, I was hopeful for a better future for the teachers and the young children themselves.

A testament to the commitment those that work with and for young children in RI, I arrived at the Sheraton at 8:30 the next morning to an already bustling conference. Along with the other members of the YLCP, I was attending the Advocacy Track. Starting with Stacie Goffin, she discussed the path to professionalism, this time geared toward teachers and those that work directly with the children, how this needed to be a choice early educators made as whole, to stop the division of our field and create clear guidelines for definitions and qualifications in the field before we can move beyond occupation status. Up next was an inspirational story from Beth Bye, the toddler teacher turned Connecticut State Senator. She spoke to the need for people, especially women due to our current lack of equal representation, to use their stories and their voices to fuel political changes. She told myself and the rest of the heavily female room to run for office, because if she could do it anyone could. Beth Bye then moved on to moderate a panel of women that held office or helped women run and hold office in RI. I heard their stories and again and again was called to use my voice, to run, to help other women run.

Leaving the RIAEYC Conference I had a list of resources, events, terms, and ideas to which I was previously ignorant. Empowered and excited with new peers to conspire with and role models to look to I resolved to make a difference in 2018.

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