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Washington Week Reflection: Zero to Three Visit and More

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to give a child of immigrant parents the opportunity to advocate on Capitol Hill? Think of a child who once felt unimportant, watching “the important fancy people” walk in and out of a high-end hotel in her neighborhood while she sat outside her ready-for-demolition home. She felt like her voice did not matter because she was just a little brown child whose roots were left behind in another country.

But what happens when this same child encounters educators who make her believe in herself and her power? Those same educators fostered her learning and found ways to connect new information to make it relevant to her life. Well, you get an adult who is now given the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill and advocate for other children’s rights for exceptionally trained educators by supporting bills that would strengthen educator preparation and the educator workforce.

AACTE is an advocate for educator preparation. Its member institutions and programs, including teachers, counselors, administrators, and college faculty, play a vital role in preparing professional educators in the United States (AACTE, 2024).

One of AACTE’s initiatives, the Holmes Program, has had a profound impact on my doctoral journey and those of many other historically excluded students. Established in 1991, the Holmes Scholars Program provides support for racially and ethnically diverse students pursuing graduate degrees in education at AACTE member institutions. The program offers mentorship, peer support, and professional development opportunities.

Another of AACTE’s initiatives is the partnership between the Holmes Program and the Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Center on Equity (ECIPC-E), a national center funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. Their shared objective is to help states develop comprehensive personnel development systems to improve outcomes for infants and young children with disabilities and their families. They plan to achieve this goal by providing targeted mentorship, professional development, and financial support to Holmes Scholars, like myself, pursuing doctorates in special education or early childhood education.

A part of AACTE’s Washington Week focused on providing professional development opportunities to Holmes Scholars from private institutions. As a member of the first cohort of the ECIPC-E/Holmes collaboration, I participated in the Zero to Three professional development. Zero to Three is an organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of babies and toddlers as they grow from infancy to childhood. I was deeply impressed by the work being done at Zero to Three. Our discussions centered on nurturing a child’s early childhood development, raising awareness about early childhood, and advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves. We also learned about the crucial role of the first three years of a child’s life in shaping their lifelong health and well-being, with 1 million new neurological connections formed every second (Zero to Three, 2024).

I was very impressed by their proactive approach to addressing critical issues such as diversity within their company. They encouraged historically excluded groups to apply for jobs and careers at Zero to Three, aiming to create a diverse workforce that reflects the communities they serve. I also appreciated being acknowledged and heard when I inquired about the organization’s work with linguistically diverse communities. Although they currently have no initiatives in this area, they recognize the importance of highlighting and serving the linguistically diverse population.

With a sense of awe and deep gratitude, I find myself, the little brown girl from an immigrant family, walking into government buildings, prepared to engage with high-ranking officials. This journey, once unimaginable, has been made possible by the unwavering support and preparation provided by AACTE and the Holmes Scholars Program. I am a living testament to the transformative power of educational programs for historically excluded students. 

If you are currently a Holmes Scholar in a special education or early childhood education program, I encourage you to review the ECIPC-E and Holmes Partnership Information. By completing the application to participate in this partnership opportunity, you can unlock a wealth of opportunities to help our society’s youngest members and their families. Learn more and apply to the Holmes Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Center for Equity (ECIPC-E) program by July 31.

Concepción Moncada Cummings, M.Ed., CALP, is a doctoral student at the University of Florida and an AACTE Holmes Scholar.

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