On March 29, hundreds of parents, childcare providers, teachers, and community members gathered at the Capitol Rotunda on Advocacy for Children Day to raise their voices for Minnesota’s youngest residents- kids. Statistics show that 225,000 children experience poverty in our state, and over 35,000 kids still don’t have access to quality early care and education.
The bipartisan event was led by the MinneMinds Coalition, which provides equitable access to high quality early childhood programs, and Greater Twin Cities United Way. It aimed to remind legislators early childhood is the best time to close one of the nation’s worst opportunity gaps and encourage them to make these topics part of policy discussions.
“Early childhood is where we can have the greatest potential impact. 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age 3 so if we wait until they are in preschool we’ve lost a huge window of opportunity,” said Nathan Chomilo with Reach Out and Read Minnesota, a nonprofit that promotes early literacy guidance. He attended the event with his wife and 15-month-old son, Nchare.
Erin DuChaine from Early Head Start, which acts on issues affecting low-income families with kids ages 0-3, agreed that waiting until preschool to provide social, emotional, and intellectual education to children is simply too late.
“Imagine how much less money we would spend down the line on things like housing, education, crime, employment, and health if we provided the supports that families needed early on,” said DuChaine.
The day began with elected officials reading to preschoolers, featured a rally with multiple speakers discussing how to best support young children through things like early learning scholarships and home visiting, and concluded with legislators visiting with families and kids.
Parent Carmen Alicea Hernandez came to the rally with her three-year-old daughter, Evecita. She immigrated from Puerto Rico and got connected with Lifetrack, a GTCUW partner agency which strengthens families experiencing disparities in health, employment, and education.
“Our kids are dreamers that need a chance for education, and our voices deserve to be heard,” she said.
Shamso Abuti also immigrated, from Somalia with seven children. She found another GTCUW partner, Way to Grow, and her eldest son started the early childhood education program when he was just two months old. Today, he’s 15 and thriving in high school.
“I came from another country where a lot of things weren’t available to me,” she said. “If Way to Grow wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have known how to begin.”
The kids in attendance enjoyed playing, dancing, and singing inside the Capitol, many of them holding up artwork and signs.
“There are a lot of kids here today,” said Eleanor Heier from Early Head Start. “We are here for them, we are advocating for them, and we’re going to make things better for them.”
For more information or get involved with early childhood education advocacy, visit MinneMinds’ policy page, partners like Minnesota’s Future for Early Childhood, or sign up for Greater Twin Cities United Way’s newsletter under the “Stay Connected” blue bar below.
Jenna Bennett is a copywriter at Greater Twin Cities United Way, where she enjoys crafting content for multiple GTCUW channels. She attended Advocacy for Children Day at the Minnesota State Capitol on March 29.