Rasmussen College joined with the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC) and the Minnesota School-Age Care Alliance (MnSACA) on March 4 to conduct an early childhood advocacy workshop at the college’s Blaine campus.
The workshop was in preparation for “Minnesota Voices for Children Advocacy Day” on March 26 and was designed to provide information and encouragement for community members hoping to become advocates of ECE. The organizations scheduled a second event at Rasmussen’s Eagan campus on March 14.
Those passionate about advocating for early childhood education are often not sure where to start, says Mary Muhs, state program coordinator for the School of Education at Rasmussen College.
“Our littlest citizens here in Minnesota have no voice,” Muhs says. “They rely on us to be their voice and make sure no one forgets about them. Windows of opportunity for kids to learn and grow are open during the time when they are young, and if they don’t have those opportunities, they could be challenged the rest of their lives.”
Advocating for early childhood education
Muhs explains that the workshops are split into two parts: the first half covers what to expect during the rally at the Capitol and how the event on March 26 works. The second portion of the workshop covers the details of being an advocate. Workshop attendees learn how to be an advocate for ECE in their community; and how to identify and lobby their state and federal legislators.
“The workshops are preparation for those attending the rally and also, an encouragement for guests as well,” Muhs explains. “An invitation to the rally may end up on your desk, and you may think it’s a great idea but be unsure how to go about attending the rally or advocating on behalf of kids. The workshops help people understand that every voice counts.”
Even if you are unable to attend the rally on March 26, attending a workshop can help you understand what you can do from your own classroom or home to practically advocate for early childhood education.
Practical steps for advocating
While attending the rally is an important step, advocating for early childhood education isn’t limited to the March 26 event. There are many practical ways you can advocate for ECE every day. Muhs suggests the following:
- Communicate with your legislator through a quick phone call or email and develop a relationship with him or her. That way, your legislator may consider you an expert on early childhood education and might even approach you with questions when a bill comes across his or her desk.
- Be a positive role model in your community. Be present at global organizations and community events, parades, festivals, etc. When early childhood education is visible, people will learn what it looks like and will pay more attention to it.
- Join a professional organization for early childhood education. Instead of flying solo, being part of a group can help bring the masses together. You are much stronger as an advocate when you come together as a whole. Muhs recommends professional organizations such as NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), MnAEYC-MnSACA or NAFCCA (National Association for Family Child Care).
See you at the rally!
“My reason for being an advocate is that these little children can’t be an advocate for themselves,” Muhs says. “Someone has to do it for them. It’s the same with families too. We want to help train families so they can support their kids in the best way they can.”
For more information about “Minnesota Voices for Children Advocacy Day” on March 26, check out www.voicesforchildrenmn.org. We hope to see you there!