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Business & Community Leader Coalition

 EMPOWERING BUSINESS LEADERS 
to find solutions for the child care crisis

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Together we can ensure a strong workforce of today and tomorrow. 

We advocate for policies that work for both businesses and families. We contribute to public testimony, op-eds, and other educational opportunities to ensure young children receive the critical early care and education necessary for school, career, and lifelong success, while empowering parents to excel in their professional endeavors and provide for their families.

 

Quality early care and education is an evidence-based workforce strategy that meets the needs of today’s workforce while preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

Q: How can you help address
the child care crisis? 

A: Businesses must be part of the solution, but they can’t solve this crisis alone. It’s going to require the commitment of private and public partners alike. A robust, high-quality, affordable child care system benefits the entire state and should be discussed in boardrooms and in lunchrooms, but also in the halls of Congress and our state legislature.

Investing in Child Care is a Proven Workforce Strategy

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Working Together
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WAYS TO ENGAGE & GET INVOLVED

Join the founding members of the coalition to support our work and add your logo here with our partners!

Learn & stay informed about what is affecting Ohio’s workforce shortage.

Share resources in your communities about our efforts and child care data.

Hear from Ohio business leaders and their reflections and actions.

Sign on to op-eds to help influence policymakers.

The lack of quality, affordable child care is contributing to Ohio’s workforce shortage.

Learn & Share the Data:

  • Chris Acock
    Early Learning Policy Analyst Franklin County Chris Acock serves as an Early Learning Policy Analyst for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. He joins The Commissioner’s Office from his previous tenure at The African American Male Wellness Agency where he partnered with child care centers to increase their Step Up to Quality rating and to help fathers understand the importance of kindergarten readiness. Chris graduated from The Ohio State University in 2023, with degrees in Sociology and Public Affairs. He is committed to being a lifelong learner and helping young children across the county discover the joy of education. Chris and his fiancée Brooke reside in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Minister Jauneece Adams-Mitchell
    Consultant Angel Heart Foundation Minister Jauneece Adams is the Senior Pastor and founder of The Angel Heart Foundation, a faith-based Ministry providing trauma-informed counseling to youth and adults. With over 15 years of experience in Children and Family Services, she serves as a youth 1st aid Mental Health Responder and a mentor for Cleveland Metropolitan schools. Minister Adams also creates innovative educational programs, including financial literacy initiatives and a Real Estate STEM Program, empowering young minds for success. Her passion for mental health advocacy and dedication to community service make her a beacon of light and healing for those in need.
  • Shaun Barrett
    Senior Behavior Support Specialist The Ohio State University Nisonger Center Shaun graduated from The Ohio State University in 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Having a particular interest in behavioral science, Shaun went on to obtain his Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2017. He holds licenses as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst, and Developmental Specialist. He has worked with children as a lead toddler classroom teacher, direct service provider in Early Intervention, as well as a behavior specialist in Early Head Start. Shaun’s desire to work with children with developmental disabilities is largely due to growing up with a brother with autism. Combining his own family experiences with the professional knowledge he has gained, Shaun feels confident addressing the needs of the whole family. Partnering with those who champion the inclusion mindset, Shaun looks to further the accessibility to quality child care and developmental services for all children no matter what a family's walk of life may be. Shaun is married to his wife and has two young children. In his free time, Shaun enjoys playing board and card games with friends, relaxing by the river, and expressing his creativity through art and children's books.
  • Bonnie Berg-Simmons
    Librarian Twinsburg Public Library Bonnie Berg-Simmons is a librarian and Assistant Manager of Children's Services at the Twinsburg Public Library, where she has presented programming for Twinsburg's youngest residents for the last 10 years. She especially loves providing the space and resources for caregivers of young children to enjoy their community and thrive in their family life. Bonnie is a passionate supporter of early childhood education and hopes to continue making access to high-quality community resources a priority for all.
  • Monica Cardenas
    Professional Development & Support Specialist Monica Cardenas is a dedicated Professional Development and Support Specialist at HOPE Toledo, located in Toledo, OH. With a solid educational foundation, Monica earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Owens Community College. With over a decade of experience in the early childhood field, Monica has enhanced her skills and expertise to become a beacon of support and guidance for educators. Since a child, Monica's passion for teaching has been unwavering, driving her to pursue a career where she could directly impact the lives of children. Now, as a PDSS, Monica fulfills her purpose by working closely with teachers, imparting valuable insights, and reinforcing the profound influence they have on shaping the futures of young learners. Through her unwavering dedication and commitment, Monica endeavors to empower educators to reach their fullest potential, thereby enriching the educational landscape for generations to come.
  • Holly Conroy
    Prevention & Inclusion Programs Specialist Starting Point Holly Conroy has worked in the early childhood education field since 2016. Previously, she was an early childhood education teacher for several years before switching to her role now. Currently, she works as a Prevention and Inclusion Programs Specialist at Starting Point where she provides DECA technical assistance to UPK sites in Cuyahoga County. Holly is passionate about advocating for providing early intervention to children with disabilities or developmental delays along with providing families with affordable quality childcare.
  • Emily Cresswell
    Early Childhood Education Coach Miami Valley Child Development Center Emily Cresswell hails from Chicago, Illinois and relocated to the Dayton area in the summer of 2022. She is an Early Childhood Education Coach with Miami Valley Child Development Centers (in the Partnerships division). In her role, she works with both EHS and HS teachers serving children and families in Montgomery and Clark counties. Emily entered early childhood education in 1998 as an art teacher for young children. While studying illustration (at Columbia College Chicago) and teaching, Emily realized how much learning happened when children were engaged with the arts. This discovery led Emily to change her program major from illustration to Early Childhood Education with a minor in visual art. When Emily completed her BA degree in 2001, she remained a part-time art teacher and began her role as a full-time preschool teacher. Fast forward to 2024 and Emily has held the roles of art teacher, preschool teacher, assistant director, director, child development coordinator, curriculum specialist and now, early childhood education coach. As a coach, Emily enjoys helping teachers think about ways to integrate their own creativity into their practice of teaching. Emily’s passion is a combination of creating art herself, integrating the arts into learning (for children and adults) and advocating for keeping the creative arts as a vehicle for learning in the field. In her free time, Emily still makes her own work (drawing, mixed-media, painting, and sculpture) and participates in small shows/markets across the Midwest.
  • Simone Ellerson
    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant Nationwide Children’s Hospital Simone S. Ellerson has worked in the social services field for over 25 years. At an early age, her enjoyment of babysitting led to an interest in early childhood education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University focusing on Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health with a focus on emerging public health challenges and breakthroughs. Simone is a member of the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and a Board Trustee for City Music Columbus. City Music Columbus provides music education and music therapy services for children who otherwise may not have access to it. Her work experience includes being a Head Start Teacher, Family Services Advocate, Early Education Classroom Coach, Professional Development Instructor and Program Administrator of childcare for families transitioning from homelessness to housing. Her current role as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Central Ohio brings attention to early childhood mental health stigmas along with supporting the needs of caregivers to reach their goals for optimal parenting outcomes. Simone believes that early education and intervention partnered with empowering families strengthens our communities. She enjoys cheering on her favorite Ohio sports teams, listening to music and visiting outdoor festivals.
  • Samantha Forsythe
    Education Systems Coordinator Child Development Council of Franklin County Samantha Forsythe currently holds the position as Education Systems Coordinator for the Child Development Council of Franklin County, with over 10 years of experience as a Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) educator. Samantha was a Head Start student, a Head Start parent, and has held multiple positions including Assistant Teacher, EHS Lead Teacher, Home Visitor, and Home Base Service Coordinator. Samantha received her AAS in Early Childhood Development and Education from Columbus State Community College and is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Youth Studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.
  • Emily Gessner
    Early Childhood Educator Mom’s House Toledo Emily Gessner is an early childhood educator and advocate for universal access to high-quality, tuition-free public education for learners across all age groups. With three years of experience serving families and their children aged 6 weeks to 5 years, she embodies a commitment to breaking recurring barriers to opportunity and advancement through a multi-generational approach to education. She holds an Associate of Arts degree from Owens Community College and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a Legal Studies concentration from the University of Toledo. Emily serves as the Preschool Educator for Mom’s House of Toledo, Ohio. Grounded in the mission of Mom’s House, she strives to break cycles of intergenerational poverty by guiding at-risk single parents and their children toward educational goals, social-emotional skills, and effective parenting strategies. Alongside her dedication to advocating for the rights of children and families, she is a staunch supporter of fair pay and career growth for early childhood educators. With a focus on policy and legislation, she hopes to continue her work toward the development of holistic approaches to the care of children and integrated community support programs to effect systemic change.
  • Margeric Gonzalez
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Margeric Gonzalez is from Puerto Rico and relocated to Cleveland, OH following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master's Degree in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from Cleveland State University,Margeric is pursuing an Ed.D in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at Walden University. Her professional journey spans over 15 years, during which she has dedicated herself to the holistic development of children, particularly focusing on their social-emotional well-being by engaging in art activities. Margeric is deeply committed to advocating for enhanced opportunities for young children to flourish, fostering environments where they feel supported and empowered to cultivate resilience. Her diverse experience as an educator encompasses various roles, ranging from engagements at the Art Museum of Puerto Rico to teaching in preschools and serving as a Head Start teacher. Presently, Margeric is engaged in empowering Family Childcare Home providers through tailored training and coaching in Early Childhood Education. These endeavors are conducted under the auspices of Starting Point leadership, where she contributes toward shaping the future of early childhood education and fostering impactful change in our communities.
  • Dr. Linda Hicks
    ECE Career Navigator 4C for Children Dr. Linda Y. Hicks has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 33 years and she received her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Special Education and Education Leadership at The Union Institute and University in 2011. She began as an Itinerant Early Childhood Intervention Specialist, working for Cincinnati Public Schools for over 20+ years before starting as an Operations Manager for New Horizons Child Care Center. From there, Dr. Hicks began her role as a coach for Family Child Care Centers with 4C for Children in 2021. 4C for Children is a non-profit organization founded 51 years ago based in Cincinnati, Ohio that plays a crucial role in supporting parents, child care providers, preschool teachers, and early learning program administrators. Through her work at 4C, Dr. Hicks’ personal and professional mission aligns with the organization’s mission. As an educator, she aims to ensure high-quality early education and care for ALL children. She was promoted to the position of Early Childhood Career Navigator, which allows her to explore her passion for workforce development in Early Childhood Education. As a career navigator, some of Dr. Hicks’ key responsibilities include recruiting people outside of the field of early childhood to become an Early Care and Education provider, building relationships with childcare programs in need of early childhood educators, connecting recruited early childhood educators to fill the empty seats in ECE workforce settings, and creating and providing appropriate support, tools, and professional development to prepare new early childhood educators to enter the field. While not working, Dr. Hicks enjoys traveling, the Arts, yoga, being an absolute foodie, and walking her 16-year-old fur baby, Frankie. Her mission is to attract, train, and retain quality educators in Early Childhood Education and she is very enthusiastic about advocating for underserved populations and supporting causes that affect the good of the whole. Life is short, so she takes every opportunity to laugh and put a smile on someone’s face. Dr. Hicks’ favorite motivating bible verse is Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
  • Delaney Jones
    Social Worker Educational Service Center of North East Ohio Delaney (MSSA, LSW) is a graduate of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences where she studied Community Practice for Social Change. Delaney’s professional and educational background, focused in the area of young child/ family wellbeing, intertwines a micro- level study and practice (child behavior, family dynamics, trauma), with a macro- level focus and practice (policy and program development). Delaney currently serves as the Community Coordinator for the Safe Babies Program in Cuyahoga County where she is working alongside local child welfare, judicial, and social services leadership to plan, implement, develop, execute and evaluate the Safe Babies program model.
  • Tonya Kelly, M.Ed
    Principal Bridge Gate Community School Tonya Kelly is the esteemed proprietor of Empower Our Youth Foundation, a renowned local and national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to combating bullying. Tonya holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Canyon University. Tonya brings 13 years of invaluable expertise and experience in the educational sector to her role. Her unwavering commitment to fostering safe and inclusive environments for youth has earned her widespread recognition and admiration in the fields of anti-bullying advocacy, creating positive educational environments, promoting diversity and equity in the classroom, family education, and community engagement. Tonya's leadership and passion continues to drive positive change and empower countless young lives through education and support.
  • Angela Martin
    Early Head Start Home Visitor The Ohio University Early Head Start Angela Martin is an Early Head Start Home Visitor for Ohio State University. Her role with families is to encourage learning opportunities in the home, support developmental growth, and link to necessary services. Angela received her undergraduate degree in Family Studies from Ohio University and earned a master’s level certificate for Nonprofit and Public Leadership from the John Glenn College of Ohio State University. Throughout her career, Angela has focused on supporting families, particularly children, and her previous work has included being a caseworker for Franklin County Children Services and leading educational programs for the City of Groveport. In her over 25 years of job experience, it has been her honor to have worked with so many amazing children and families, helping them reach their full potential. It is Angela’s goal to expand her reach by becoming a strong advocate for children.
  • Keshia McCahill
    Executive Assistant Child Development Council of Franklin County Keshia McCahill is the current Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO of the Child Development Council of Franklin County, Inc. Keshia has over 10 years of experience in the Head Start community, in various states, and has held a myriad of positions ranging from teacher to executive assistant. Keshia is a graduate of The Ohio State University and received additional early childhood credentialing from Penn State University. To further her knowledge in the administrative field, Keshia has completed the IAAP CAP Program. In order to pursue her goals of being a strong advocate for children and families, Keshia strives to learn more each day. Outside of work, Keshia enjoys going to the horse races, cheering on her beloved Ohio State and Columbus Crew, and spending time with her husband Mark.
  • Brittney McCarey
    Student Armed with several years of experience in customer service roles, Brittany is pursuing a bachelor's degree in early childhood education at Grand Canyon University. She attended an Ohio aspiring educators' event to enhance her networking skills in this field. As a stay-at-home mom, Brittany also took positive parenting classes. Brittany is actively seeking opportunities to grow in early childhood education and hopes to gain valuable experience and contribute her skills to the fellowship.
  • Laura McFalls
    Early Childhood Specialist Akron-Summit County Public Library Laura McFalls is an Early Childhood Specialist with the Akron-Summit County Public Library, and an independent Early Childhood Education Consultant. She is a graduate of The University of Akron, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine and Applied Arts in Child and Family Development. Laura and her husband, Sean are the proud parents of three boys: Connor, Kyle, and their dog, Cody. They all happily call Akron home. Laura has been fortunate to work with teachers, children, and families in Northeast Ohio for the past 24 years. Prior to her community work with the public library system, Laura worked as a teacher with Akron Summit Community Action Head Start and The University of Akron Center for Child Development. Later she served as an administrator at an Early Childhood Learning Center, as well as a consultant and trainer with the Step Up to Quality initiative. It was through her work providing training, conducting classroom observations such as ECERS and CLASS®, mentoring, and coaching where Laura realized her passion for working with childcare providers and early childhood educators. She believes in lifelong learning to best provide resources to the teachers and families she serves. Laura continues to attend and present at local, statewide, and regional conferences, is a reliable CLASS Observer, and is a certified MMCI/CLASS Group Coaching Instructor. She is actively involved in several local professional organizations and sits on many early childhood committees throughout Summit County. Laura is thrilled to collaborate and develop relationships with the early childhood professionals she will be partnering with in this year’s cohort.
  • Jennifer McNellie
    Educator Starting Point Jennifer McNellie, MA, is the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator for Starting Point Child Care Resource and Referral in Cleveland, Ohio. Using the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) program data, Jennifer coordinates the program and provides professional development to early childhood educators. She focuses on increasing conversational turns between adults and children to strengthen the early childhood language environment. She also oversees Starting Point’s brand-new Digital Library and was responsible for curating the library collection. Before serving as the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator, Jennifer was an Early Education Program Specialist, Devereaux Early Childhood Assessment Specialist, and continues to teach the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential for Starting Point. Prior to her work with Starting Point, she worked for WQLN Public Broadcasting Station where she conducted educational training and CDA courses. Her career started as an Elementary Guidance Counselor in the public school system in PA. She graduated from West Virginia University with an MA in counseling and a BS in Psychology from Fairmont University. Throughout her 20+ years in the field of education, her commitment to supporting children’s social and emotional development has remained strong. Her passion for early literacy has continued to grow and she is overjoyed to be in her current role. In her free time, she loves spending time with family and friends, sharing charcuterie boards, walking, and watching sunsets on Lake Erie. Jennifer is happily married to her husband Mark and the proud mom of 3 successful young adults.
  • Courtney Nerad
    Executive Director St. Peter’s Child Care Center, Inc. Courtney Nerad is the Executive Director of St. Peter’s Child Care Center in Lakewood. She started as the Preschool Teacher there in 2002 and has held many different positions at the Center. As the Executive Director, she can utilize her experience from these varied positions to guide her staff in providing quality care and education to the children at the Center. She is proud to work with a diverse group of early childhood professionals and aspires to continue to lead them to provide the children and families with a safe, loving environment that promotes growth and development of all the children in their care. She began her educational studies at Lorain Community College and received her associate degree in early childhood education in 1998. In 2007, she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Colorado Technical University and in 2018, she received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Cincinnati. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, outdoor adventures, attending sporting events with her husband, and visiting her son, Hunter, in Florida. She also loves animals and has 4 cats and two dogs of her own.
  • Katy Philpot
    Teacher Dayton Public Schools Katy Philpot is a preschool intervention specialist at Dayton Public Schools. Her love of education started as a young girl in her home “teaching” her stuffed animals and playing school each day. She has formally been in the education field for 15 years. She graduated from Wittenberg University in 2009 swearing up and down she would never go into early childhood education. Soon after, she entered the world of preschool and immediately fell in love. The pure wonder and joy each day brought was magnificent. In 2018 she went to Mount St. Joseph and got her pre kindergarten special needs endorsement. She believes all children can learn and all children can and need to have a voice. In her building she serves on multiple leadership committees and has headed up the “Sunshine Committee” to spread joy around the building throughout the year. She consistently works on ways to make school more inclusive for all learners and is currently working on a project to get an adaptive playground for her building. In her free time she loves reading and going on adventures with her two young boys.
  • Jennifer Rigano
    Early Intervention Specialist Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities Jennifer Rigano currently works as a Help Me Grow- Early Intervention Developmental Specialist with the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Upon her graduation from The Ohio State University in Early Childhood Development, Jennifer spent 15 years in the kids fitness world working with children ages 1-12. In that time, she developed and ran an independent kids fitness program that incorporated her child development knowledge to teach kids that moving their bodies could be fun and keep them healthy. During this experience, she had children with developmental disabilities who took part in her classes. Her love for that population of children grew and she decided to make a career change and use her childhood development knowledge in a new capacity. She started in the Union County Board of DD’s preschool as a classroom assistant and moved into Early Intervention where she has served families for the past 3 years. Jennifer is passionate about coaching and walking alongside families to give them the confidence and strategies to help their children live meaningful, joy-filled lives. In her spare time, she enjoys attending her 3 children’s extra-curricular activities and spending time with them, her husband, and her two dogs on their 5 acres of land.
  • Dr. Allison Riggle
    Project Manager Nationwide Children’s Hospital Allison Riggle is a Project Manager in the Community Wellness Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing support to school readiness and high school graduation initiatives, she coordinates Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library. Prior to working in health care, she directed student services programming at community colleges and universities in Arkansas, Indiana, and Florida. She has a master’s degree in social work from Indiana University and a doctoral degree in education from the University of West Florida.
  • Meghan Scott
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Megan Scott is an Early Education Program Specialist at Starting Point Child Care Resource & Referral. She graduated from Lake Erie College with a BA in Early Childhood Education and has been in the early childhood field for over 20 years, working as both a teacher and program administrator. Meghan has a passion for the non-profit industry, she enjoys connecting and building relationships with families, and being involved in the community. Meghan is always ready to lend a helping hand and volunteer at work and community events. In her current role, the opportunity to support early childhood teachers in reaching their goals and help guide them to be their best is what drives her daily work. Outside of work, Meghan enjoys spending time with family, especially her nieces and nephew, traveling with friends, and exploring the outdoors. Meghan feels honored to begin this journey as part of the Groundwork Fellowship and looks forward to strengthening and building upon her leadership and advocacy skills to provide a greater impact to children and families.
  • Michelle Shelton
    Administrator the Learning Grove Michelle Shelton is the Center Director for Learning Grove, a 5-star rated nonprofit early learning center in Cincinnati. She has more than 25 years of experience in the early childhood education field ranging from teaching in a classroom early on in the early 2000’s to being a Center Director along with a short time as a Multi-unit Manager and Accreditation liaison for several centers. Along with center experience, Michelle also had the opportunity to work for her local resource and referral agency in her hometown of Cincinnati as a community services coordinator. During her 25 years in the field, Michelle obtained an Infant Toddler CDA and later in life went to college and received her degree in Early Childhood education through the University of Cincinnati. Michelle gives back to the early childhood community by being an Ohio OCCRRA approved trainer where she can present to professionals on child development and related topics as well as a CDA PD specialist. Michelle has been blessed with six children and a best friend who she calls her husband. In 2020, she had the pleasure of joining the grandparents club and now has three grandchildren who are the absolute loves of her life. In Michelle's spare time, she enjoys spending time with my husband and family, going on family vacations, having adventures on their motorcycle, and enjoying life as a wife, mom and Nonna.
  • Emilee Stahl
    Trainer/EI Service Coordinator Franklin County Family & Children’s First Council Emilee Stahl is currently a trainer and service coordinator for Franklin County Early Intervention. She is responsible for training new staff as well as meeting with families, providing developmental screenings and coordinating developmental evaluations and/or providing activities to continue children’s development. Emilee graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in Education and focused studies in Early Learning throughout her schooling. She worked at OSUs Child Care Center throughout college and upon graduating. Emilee joined Early Intervention in 2020. Emilee’s passion and love has always been with children ages birth-5 years old and finds excitement and joy working with families and young children. Emilee is excited to learn how to better advocate for the families and children she serves everyday. In her free time, Emilee loves traveling to different amusement and theme parks with her husband and family. She enjoys going on adventures with her niece and nephews and watching them grow and learn as well.
  • Mary Taylor
    Nurse Franklin County Public Health Mary Taylor, BSN RN is a dedicated Public Health Nurse professional for over 7 years and has over 11 years’ experience in Pediatric Nursing. Mary is currently the Maternal & Child Health, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for the Children with Medical Handicaps (CMH) Program at Franklin County Public Health (FCPH). Mary spent her first 6 years with FCPH as a Public Health Nurse providing case management services and home visits to children with special health care needs. Mary recently moved into the supervisor role overseeing the CMH program at FCPH. Mary is a Safe Sleep Ambassador, a member of the Association of Public Health Nurses, and a Mentor of the Region V New to Public Health Mentorship Program. Through these experiences, Mary has gained a great deal of knowledge in managing care coordination and home visiting programs for birthing individuals, infants, children, and young adults transitioning to an adult care environment. In addition, Mary has gained experience of promoting health equity for the communities served and she is strongly invested in driving community health initiatives to reduce health disparities.
  • Joy Welch-Bey
    Program Manager Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood Joy Welch-Bey serves as the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program Manager for Invest in Children, overseeing the award-winning UPK program, including the budget and expenditures for all UPK sites as well as communication and policy creation for the program and maintaining strategic partnerships within the early childhood education community. She joined Invest in Children in 2023 but has been with Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services for over 10 years, where she has been devoted to ensuring the most basic needs of Cuyahoga County’s families and children are met, in a variety of roles from Eligibility Specialist to Child Care Licensing Supervisor to managing the Job and Family Services Hearings Department. She holds a Master of Education degree specializing in Educational Administration, from The University of Akron and is passionate about advocacy and mentoring for children and young adults in underserved communities. In her spare time, she volunteers with mentoring programs such as True2U, an innovative youth mentoring and career awareness program and College Now Mentoring Program, a virtual mentoring program to help increase retention and graduation of college students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Samantha Whatley
    Site Administrator Step Forward Samantha Whatley is a Site Administrator for Step Forward in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been in the Early Education field for over 15 years and has been a Head Start Site Administrator since 2016. Samantha is a PD Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She serves on the PRE4CLE Steering Committee. Samantha received her Bachelor's in ECE from the University of Toledo in 2011. In addition, she holds a Master's Degree in Adult Education and, in 2024, will receive her second Master's Degree in Early Childhood Leadership. As an early childhood leader, Samantha is committed to actively engaging in and supporting our community organizations that maintain ethical and social justice practices. In addition, she enjoys being able to educate teachers, families, and children as she works to advocate for the ECE field.
  • Sarah Zang
    Program Coordinator Action for Children Sarah Zang is a mother, former Family Child Care provider, and currently Program Coordinator for Ohio’s first Staffed Family Child Care Network, “The Village” at Action for Children. Sarah’s desire to work with children and ensure their healthy development became a loud calling for her when she had her first daughter. Taking a nanny position to stay close to her new family, Sarah developed many skills and a strong passion for working with kids. After several years, and a couple more children of her own, she opened a Family Child Care business out of her home. When the opportunity presented itself to run a non-profit youth dance studio, Sarah eagerly accepted the role, indulging in another lifelong passion- the arts. She continued her work with young children through this program, watching them develop and build confidence during classes and performances. Remembering her time as an FCC business owner, and the struggles that come with owning a small business, Sarah was excited to accept her current role at Action for Children and the opportunity to assist current Family Child Care professionals and advocate for them. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as traveling and dancing.
  • Chris Acock
    Early Learning Policy Analyst Franklin County Chris Acock serves as an Early Learning Policy Analyst for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. He joins The Commissioner’s Office from his previous tenure at The African American Male Wellness Agency where he partnered with child care centers to increase their Step Up to Quality rating and to help fathers understand the importance of kindergarten readiness. Chris graduated from The Ohio State University in 2023, with degrees in Sociology and Public Affairs. He is committed to being a lifelong learner and helping young children across the county discover the joy of education. Chris and his fiancée Brooke reside in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Minister Jauneece Adams-Mitchell
    Consultant Angel Heart Foundation Minister Jauneece Adams is the Senior Pastor and founder of The Angel Heart Foundation, a faith-based Ministry providing trauma-informed counseling to youth and adults. With over 15 years of experience in Children and Family Services, she serves as a youth 1st aid Mental Health Responder and a mentor for Cleveland Metropolitan schools. Minister Adams also creates innovative educational programs, including financial literacy initiatives and a Real Estate STEM Program, empowering young minds for success. Her passion for mental health advocacy and dedication to community service make her a beacon of light and healing for those in need.
  • Shaun Barrett
    Senior Behavior Support Specialist The Ohio State University Nisonger Center Shaun graduated from The Ohio State University in 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Having a particular interest in behavioral science, Shaun went on to obtain his Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2017. He holds licenses as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst, and Developmental Specialist. He has worked with children as a lead toddler classroom teacher, direct service provider in Early Intervention, as well as a behavior specialist in Early Head Start. Shaun’s desire to work with children with developmental disabilities is largely due to growing up with a brother with autism. Combining his own family experiences with the professional knowledge he has gained, Shaun feels confident addressing the needs of the whole family. Partnering with those who champion the inclusion mindset, Shaun looks to further the accessibility to quality child care and developmental services for all children no matter what a family's walk of life may be. Shaun is married to his wife and has two young children. In his free time, Shaun enjoys playing board and card games with friends, relaxing by the river, and expressing his creativity through art and children's books.
  • Bonnie Berg-Simmons
    Librarian Twinsburg Public Library Bonnie Berg-Simmons is a librarian and Assistant Manager of Children's Services at the Twinsburg Public Library, where she has presented programming for Twinsburg's youngest residents for the last 10 years. She especially loves providing the space and resources for caregivers of young children to enjoy their community and thrive in their family life. Bonnie is a passionate supporter of early childhood education and hopes to continue making access to high-quality community resources a priority for all.
  • Monica Cardenas
    Professional Development & Support Specialist Monica Cardenas is a dedicated Professional Development and Support Specialist at HOPE Toledo, located in Toledo, OH. With a solid educational foundation, Monica earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Owens Community College. With over a decade of experience in the early childhood field, Monica has enhanced her skills and expertise to become a beacon of support and guidance for educators. Since a child, Monica's passion for teaching has been unwavering, driving her to pursue a career where she could directly impact the lives of children. Now, as a PDSS, Monica fulfills her purpose by working closely with teachers, imparting valuable insights, and reinforcing the profound influence they have on shaping the futures of young learners. Through her unwavering dedication and commitment, Monica endeavors to empower educators to reach their fullest potential, thereby enriching the educational landscape for generations to come.
  • Holly Conroy
    Prevention & Inclusion Programs Specialist Starting Point Holly Conroy has worked in the early childhood education field since 2016. Previously, she was an early childhood education teacher for several years before switching to her role now. Currently, she works as a Prevention and Inclusion Programs Specialist at Starting Point where she provides DECA technical assistance to UPK sites in Cuyahoga County. Holly is passionate about advocating for providing early intervention to children with disabilities or developmental delays along with providing families with affordable quality childcare.
  • Emily Cresswell
    Early Childhood Education Coach Miami Valley Child Development Center Emily Cresswell hails from Chicago, Illinois and relocated to the Dayton area in the summer of 2022. She is an Early Childhood Education Coach with Miami Valley Child Development Centers (in the Partnerships division). In her role, she works with both EHS and HS teachers serving children and families in Montgomery and Clark counties. Emily entered early childhood education in 1998 as an art teacher for young children. While studying illustration (at Columbia College Chicago) and teaching, Emily realized how much learning happened when children were engaged with the arts. This discovery led Emily to change her program major from illustration to Early Childhood Education with a minor in visual art. When Emily completed her BA degree in 2001, she remained a part-time art teacher and began her role as a full-time preschool teacher. Fast forward to 2024 and Emily has held the roles of art teacher, preschool teacher, assistant director, director, child development coordinator, curriculum specialist and now, early childhood education coach. As a coach, Emily enjoys helping teachers think about ways to integrate their own creativity into their practice of teaching. Emily’s passion is a combination of creating art herself, integrating the arts into learning (for children and adults) and advocating for keeping the creative arts as a vehicle for learning in the field. In her free time, Emily still makes her own work (drawing, mixed-media, painting, and sculpture) and participates in small shows/markets across the Midwest.
  • Simone Ellerson
    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant Nationwide Children’s Hospital Simone S. Ellerson has worked in the social services field for over 25 years. At an early age, her enjoyment of babysitting led to an interest in early childhood education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University focusing on Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health with a focus on emerging public health challenges and breakthroughs. Simone is a member of the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and a Board Trustee for City Music Columbus. City Music Columbus provides music education and music therapy services for children who otherwise may not have access to it. Her work experience includes being a Head Start Teacher, Family Services Advocate, Early Education Classroom Coach, Professional Development Instructor and Program Administrator of childcare for families transitioning from homelessness to housing. Her current role as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Central Ohio brings attention to early childhood mental health stigmas along with supporting the needs of caregivers to reach their goals for optimal parenting outcomes. Simone believes that early education and intervention partnered with empowering families strengthens our communities. She enjoys cheering on her favorite Ohio sports teams, listening to music and visiting outdoor festivals.
  • Samantha Forsythe
    Education Systems Coordinator Child Development Council of Franklin County Samantha Forsythe currently holds the position as Education Systems Coordinator for the Child Development Council of Franklin County, with over 10 years of experience as a Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) educator. Samantha was a Head Start student, a Head Start parent, and has held multiple positions including Assistant Teacher, EHS Lead Teacher, Home Visitor, and Home Base Service Coordinator. Samantha received her AAS in Early Childhood Development and Education from Columbus State Community College and is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Youth Studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.
  • Emily Gessner
    Early Childhood Educator Mom’s House Toledo Emily Gessner is an early childhood educator and advocate for universal access to high-quality, tuition-free public education for learners across all age groups. With three years of experience serving families and their children aged 6 weeks to 5 years, she embodies a commitment to breaking recurring barriers to opportunity and advancement through a multi-generational approach to education. She holds an Associate of Arts degree from Owens Community College and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a Legal Studies concentration from the University of Toledo. Emily serves as the Preschool Educator for Mom’s House of Toledo, Ohio. Grounded in the mission of Mom’s House, she strives to break cycles of intergenerational poverty by guiding at-risk single parents and their children toward educational goals, social-emotional skills, and effective parenting strategies. Alongside her dedication to advocating for the rights of children and families, she is a staunch supporter of fair pay and career growth for early childhood educators. With a focus on policy and legislation, she hopes to continue her work toward the development of holistic approaches to the care of children and integrated community support programs to effect systemic change.
  • Margeric Gonzalez
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Margeric Gonzalez is from Puerto Rico and relocated to Cleveland, OH following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master's Degree in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from Cleveland State University,Margeric is pursuing an Ed.D in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at Walden University. Her professional journey spans over 15 years, during which she has dedicated herself to the holistic development of children, particularly focusing on their social-emotional well-being by engaging in art activities. Margeric is deeply committed to advocating for enhanced opportunities for young children to flourish, fostering environments where they feel supported and empowered to cultivate resilience. Her diverse experience as an educator encompasses various roles, ranging from engagements at the Art Museum of Puerto Rico to teaching in preschools and serving as a Head Start teacher. Presently, Margeric is engaged in empowering Family Childcare Home providers through tailored training and coaching in Early Childhood Education. These endeavors are conducted under the auspices of Starting Point leadership, where she contributes toward shaping the future of early childhood education and fostering impactful change in our communities.
  • Dr. Linda Hicks
    ECE Career Navigator 4C for Children Dr. Linda Y. Hicks has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 33 years and she received her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Special Education and Education Leadership at The Union Institute and University in 2011. She began as an Itinerant Early Childhood Intervention Specialist, working for Cincinnati Public Schools for over 20+ years before starting as an Operations Manager for New Horizons Child Care Center. From there, Dr. Hicks began her role as a coach for Family Child Care Centers with 4C for Children in 2021. 4C for Children is a non-profit organization founded 51 years ago based in Cincinnati, Ohio that plays a crucial role in supporting parents, child care providers, preschool teachers, and early learning program administrators. Through her work at 4C, Dr. Hicks’ personal and professional mission aligns with the organization’s mission. As an educator, she aims to ensure high-quality early education and care for ALL children. She was promoted to the position of Early Childhood Career Navigator, which allows her to explore her passion for workforce development in Early Childhood Education. As a career navigator, some of Dr. Hicks’ key responsibilities include recruiting people outside of the field of early childhood to become an Early Care and Education provider, building relationships with childcare programs in need of early childhood educators, connecting recruited early childhood educators to fill the empty seats in ECE workforce settings, and creating and providing appropriate support, tools, and professional development to prepare new early childhood educators to enter the field. While not working, Dr. Hicks enjoys traveling, the Arts, yoga, being an absolute foodie, and walking her 16-year-old fur baby, Frankie. Her mission is to attract, train, and retain quality educators in Early Childhood Education and she is very enthusiastic about advocating for underserved populations and supporting causes that affect the good of the whole. Life is short, so she takes every opportunity to laugh and put a smile on someone’s face. Dr. Hicks’ favorite motivating bible verse is Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
  • Delaney Jones
    Social Worker Educational Service Center of North East Ohio Delaney (MSSA, LSW) is a graduate of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences where she studied Community Practice for Social Change. Delaney’s professional and educational background, focused in the area of young child/ family wellbeing, intertwines a micro- level study and practice (child behavior, family dynamics, trauma), with a macro- level focus and practice (policy and program development). Delaney currently serves as the Community Coordinator for the Safe Babies Program in Cuyahoga County where she is working alongside local child welfare, judicial, and social services leadership to plan, implement, develop, execute and evaluate the Safe Babies program model.
  • Tonya Kelly, M.Ed
    Principal Bridge Gate Community School Tonya Kelly is the esteemed proprietor of Empower Our Youth Foundation, a renowned local and national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to combating bullying. Tonya holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Canyon University. Tonya brings 13 years of invaluable expertise and experience in the educational sector to her role. Her unwavering commitment to fostering safe and inclusive environments for youth has earned her widespread recognition and admiration in the fields of anti-bullying advocacy, creating positive educational environments, promoting diversity and equity in the classroom, family education, and community engagement. Tonya's leadership and passion continues to drive positive change and empower countless young lives through education and support.
  • Angela Martin
    Early Head Start Home Visitor The Ohio University Early Head Start Angela Martin is an Early Head Start Home Visitor for Ohio State University. Her role with families is to encourage learning opportunities in the home, support developmental growth, and link to necessary services. Angela received her undergraduate degree in Family Studies from Ohio University and earned a master’s level certificate for Nonprofit and Public Leadership from the John Glenn College of Ohio State University. Throughout her career, Angela has focused on supporting families, particularly children, and her previous work has included being a caseworker for Franklin County Children Services and leading educational programs for the City of Groveport. In her over 25 years of job experience, it has been her honor to have worked with so many amazing children and families, helping them reach their full potential. It is Angela’s goal to expand her reach by becoming a strong advocate for children.
  • Keshia McCahill
    Executive Assistant Child Development Council of Franklin County Keshia McCahill is the current Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO of the Child Development Council of Franklin County, Inc. Keshia has over 10 years of experience in the Head Start community, in various states, and has held a myriad of positions ranging from teacher to executive assistant. Keshia is a graduate of The Ohio State University and received additional early childhood credentialing from Penn State University. To further her knowledge in the administrative field, Keshia has completed the IAAP CAP Program. In order to pursue her goals of being a strong advocate for children and families, Keshia strives to learn more each day. Outside of work, Keshia enjoys going to the horse races, cheering on her beloved Ohio State and Columbus Crew, and spending time with her husband Mark.
  • Brittney McCarey
    Student Armed with several years of experience in customer service roles, Brittany is pursuing a bachelor's degree in early childhood education at Grand Canyon University. She attended an Ohio aspiring educators' event to enhance her networking skills in this field. As a stay-at-home mom, Brittany also took positive parenting classes. Brittany is actively seeking opportunities to grow in early childhood education and hopes to gain valuable experience and contribute her skills to the fellowship.
  • Laura McFalls
    Early Childhood Specialist Akron-Summit County Public Library Laura McFalls is an Early Childhood Specialist with the Akron-Summit County Public Library, and an independent Early Childhood Education Consultant. She is a graduate of The University of Akron, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine and Applied Arts in Child and Family Development. Laura and her husband, Sean are the proud parents of three boys: Connor, Kyle, and their dog, Cody. They all happily call Akron home. Laura has been fortunate to work with teachers, children, and families in Northeast Ohio for the past 24 years. Prior to her community work with the public library system, Laura worked as a teacher with Akron Summit Community Action Head Start and The University of Akron Center for Child Development. Later she served as an administrator at an Early Childhood Learning Center, as well as a consultant and trainer with the Step Up to Quality initiative. It was through her work providing training, conducting classroom observations such as ECERS and CLASS®, mentoring, and coaching where Laura realized her passion for working with childcare providers and early childhood educators. She believes in lifelong learning to best provide resources to the teachers and families she serves. Laura continues to attend and present at local, statewide, and regional conferences, is a reliable CLASS Observer, and is a certified MMCI/CLASS Group Coaching Instructor. She is actively involved in several local professional organizations and sits on many early childhood committees throughout Summit County. Laura is thrilled to collaborate and develop relationships with the early childhood professionals she will be partnering with in this year’s cohort.
  • Jennifer McNellie
    Educator Starting Point Jennifer McNellie, MA, is the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator for Starting Point Child Care Resource and Referral in Cleveland, Ohio. Using the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) program data, Jennifer coordinates the program and provides professional development to early childhood educators. She focuses on increasing conversational turns between adults and children to strengthen the early childhood language environment. She also oversees Starting Point’s brand-new Digital Library and was responsible for curating the library collection. Before serving as the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator, Jennifer was an Early Education Program Specialist, Devereaux Early Childhood Assessment Specialist, and continues to teach the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential for Starting Point. Prior to her work with Starting Point, she worked for WQLN Public Broadcasting Station where she conducted educational training and CDA courses. Her career started as an Elementary Guidance Counselor in the public school system in PA. She graduated from West Virginia University with an MA in counseling and a BS in Psychology from Fairmont University. Throughout her 20+ years in the field of education, her commitment to supporting children’s social and emotional development has remained strong. Her passion for early literacy has continued to grow and she is overjoyed to be in her current role. In her free time, she loves spending time with family and friends, sharing charcuterie boards, walking, and watching sunsets on Lake Erie. Jennifer is happily married to her husband Mark and the proud mom of 3 successful young adults.
  • Courtney Nerad
    Executive Director St. Peter’s Child Care Center, Inc. Courtney Nerad is the Executive Director of St. Peter’s Child Care Center in Lakewood. She started as the Preschool Teacher there in 2002 and has held many different positions at the Center. As the Executive Director, she can utilize her experience from these varied positions to guide her staff in providing quality care and education to the children at the Center. She is proud to work with a diverse group of early childhood professionals and aspires to continue to lead them to provide the children and families with a safe, loving environment that promotes growth and development of all the children in their care. She began her educational studies at Lorain Community College and received her associate degree in early childhood education in 1998. In 2007, she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Colorado Technical University and in 2018, she received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Cincinnati. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, outdoor adventures, attending sporting events with her husband, and visiting her son, Hunter, in Florida. She also loves animals and has 4 cats and two dogs of her own.
  • Katy Philpot
    Teacher Dayton Public Schools Katy Philpot is a preschool intervention specialist at Dayton Public Schools. Her love of education started as a young girl in her home “teaching” her stuffed animals and playing school each day. She has formally been in the education field for 15 years. She graduated from Wittenberg University in 2009 swearing up and down she would never go into early childhood education. Soon after, she entered the world of preschool and immediately fell in love. The pure wonder and joy each day brought was magnificent. In 2018 she went to Mount St. Joseph and got her pre kindergarten special needs endorsement. She believes all children can learn and all children can and need to have a voice. In her building she serves on multiple leadership committees and has headed up the “Sunshine Committee” to spread joy around the building throughout the year. She consistently works on ways to make school more inclusive for all learners and is currently working on a project to get an adaptive playground for her building. In her free time she loves reading and going on adventures with her two young boys.
  • Jennifer Rigano
    Early Intervention Specialist Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities Jennifer Rigano currently works as a Help Me Grow- Early Intervention Developmental Specialist with the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Upon her graduation from The Ohio State University in Early Childhood Development, Jennifer spent 15 years in the kids fitness world working with children ages 1-12. In that time, she developed and ran an independent kids fitness program that incorporated her child development knowledge to teach kids that moving their bodies could be fun and keep them healthy. During this experience, she had children with developmental disabilities who took part in her classes. Her love for that population of children grew and she decided to make a career change and use her childhood development knowledge in a new capacity. She started in the Union County Board of DD’s preschool as a classroom assistant and moved into Early Intervention where she has served families for the past 3 years. Jennifer is passionate about coaching and walking alongside families to give them the confidence and strategies to help their children live meaningful, joy-filled lives. In her spare time, she enjoys attending her 3 children’s extra-curricular activities and spending time with them, her husband, and her two dogs on their 5 acres of land.
  • Dr. Allison Riggle
    Project Manager Nationwide Children’s Hospital Allison Riggle is a Project Manager in the Community Wellness Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing support to school readiness and high school graduation initiatives, she coordinates Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library. Prior to working in health care, she directed student services programming at community colleges and universities in Arkansas, Indiana, and Florida. She has a master’s degree in social work from Indiana University and a doctoral degree in education from the University of West Florida.
  • Meghan Scott
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Megan Scott is an Early Education Program Specialist at Starting Point Child Care Resource & Referral. She graduated from Lake Erie College with a BA in Early Childhood Education and has been in the early childhood field for over 20 years, working as both a teacher and program administrator. Meghan has a passion for the non-profit industry, she enjoys connecting and building relationships with families, and being involved in the community. Meghan is always ready to lend a helping hand and volunteer at work and community events. In her current role, the opportunity to support early childhood teachers in reaching their goals and help guide them to be their best is what drives her daily work. Outside of work, Meghan enjoys spending time with family, especially her nieces and nephew, traveling with friends, and exploring the outdoors. Meghan feels honored to begin this journey as part of the Groundwork Fellowship and looks forward to strengthening and building upon her leadership and advocacy skills to provide a greater impact to children and families.
  • Michelle Shelton
    Administrator the Learning Grove Michelle Shelton is the Center Director for Learning Grove, a 5-star rated nonprofit early learning center in Cincinnati. She has more than 25 years of experience in the early childhood education field ranging from teaching in a classroom early on in the early 2000’s to being a Center Director along with a short time as a Multi-unit Manager and Accreditation liaison for several centers. Along with center experience, Michelle also had the opportunity to work for her local resource and referral agency in her hometown of Cincinnati as a community services coordinator. During her 25 years in the field, Michelle obtained an Infant Toddler CDA and later in life went to college and received her degree in Early Childhood education through the University of Cincinnati. Michelle gives back to the early childhood community by being an Ohio OCCRRA approved trainer where she can present to professionals on child development and related topics as well as a CDA PD specialist. Michelle has been blessed with six children and a best friend who she calls her husband. In 2020, she had the pleasure of joining the grandparents club and now has three grandchildren who are the absolute loves of her life. In Michelle's spare time, she enjoys spending time with my husband and family, going on family vacations, having adventures on their motorcycle, and enjoying life as a wife, mom and Nonna.
  • Emilee Stahl
    Trainer/EI Service Coordinator Franklin County Family & Children’s First Council Emilee Stahl is currently a trainer and service coordinator for Franklin County Early Intervention. She is responsible for training new staff as well as meeting with families, providing developmental screenings and coordinating developmental evaluations and/or providing activities to continue children’s development. Emilee graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in Education and focused studies in Early Learning throughout her schooling. She worked at OSUs Child Care Center throughout college and upon graduating. Emilee joined Early Intervention in 2020. Emilee’s passion and love has always been with children ages birth-5 years old and finds excitement and joy working with families and young children. Emilee is excited to learn how to better advocate for the families and children she serves everyday. In her free time, Emilee loves traveling to different amusement and theme parks with her husband and family. She enjoys going on adventures with her niece and nephews and watching them grow and learn as well.
  • Mary Taylor
    Nurse Franklin County Public Health Mary Taylor, BSN RN is a dedicated Public Health Nurse professional for over 7 years and has over 11 years’ experience in Pediatric Nursing. Mary is currently the Maternal & Child Health, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for the Children with Medical Handicaps (CMH) Program at Franklin County Public Health (FCPH). Mary spent her first 6 years with FCPH as a Public Health Nurse providing case management services and home visits to children with special health care needs. Mary recently moved into the supervisor role overseeing the CMH program at FCPH. Mary is a Safe Sleep Ambassador, a member of the Association of Public Health Nurses, and a Mentor of the Region V New to Public Health Mentorship Program. Through these experiences, Mary has gained a great deal of knowledge in managing care coordination and home visiting programs for birthing individuals, infants, children, and young adults transitioning to an adult care environment. In addition, Mary has gained experience of promoting health equity for the communities served and she is strongly invested in driving community health initiatives to reduce health disparities.
  • Joy Welch-Bey
    Program Manager Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood Joy Welch-Bey serves as the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program Manager for Invest in Children, overseeing the award-winning UPK program, including the budget and expenditures for all UPK sites as well as communication and policy creation for the program and maintaining strategic partnerships within the early childhood education community. She joined Invest in Children in 2023 but has been with Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services for over 10 years, where she has been devoted to ensuring the most basic needs of Cuyahoga County’s families and children are met, in a variety of roles from Eligibility Specialist to Child Care Licensing Supervisor to managing the Job and Family Services Hearings Department. She holds a Master of Education degree specializing in Educational Administration, from The University of Akron and is passionate about advocacy and mentoring for children and young adults in underserved communities. In her spare time, she volunteers with mentoring programs such as True2U, an innovative youth mentoring and career awareness program and College Now Mentoring Program, a virtual mentoring program to help increase retention and graduation of college students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Samantha Whatley
    Site Administrator Step Forward Samantha Whatley is a Site Administrator for Step Forward in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been in the Early Education field for over 15 years and has been a Head Start Site Administrator since 2016. Samantha is a PD Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She serves on the PRE4CLE Steering Committee. Samantha received her Bachelor's in ECE from the University of Toledo in 2011. In addition, she holds a Master's Degree in Adult Education and, in 2024, will receive her second Master's Degree in Early Childhood Leadership. As an early childhood leader, Samantha is committed to actively engaging in and supporting our community organizations that maintain ethical and social justice practices. In addition, she enjoys being able to educate teachers, families, and children as she works to advocate for the ECE field.
  • Sarah Zang
    Program Coordinator Action for Children Sarah Zang is a mother, former Family Child Care provider, and currently Program Coordinator for Ohio’s first Staffed Family Child Care Network, “The Village” at Action for Children. Sarah’s desire to work with children and ensure their healthy development became a loud calling for her when she had her first daughter. Taking a nanny position to stay close to her new family, Sarah developed many skills and a strong passion for working with kids. After several years, and a couple more children of her own, she opened a Family Child Care business out of her home. When the opportunity presented itself to run a non-profit youth dance studio, Sarah eagerly accepted the role, indulging in another lifelong passion- the arts. She continued her work with young children through this program, watching them develop and build confidence during classes and performances. Remembering her time as an FCC business owner, and the struggles that come with owning a small business, Sarah was excited to accept her current role at Action for Children and the opportunity to assist current Family Child Care professionals and advocate for them. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as traveling and dancing.
  • Chris Acock
    Early Learning Policy Analyst Franklin County Chris Acock serves as an Early Learning Policy Analyst for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. He joins The Commissioner’s Office from his previous tenure at The African American Male Wellness Agency where he partnered with child care centers to increase their Step Up to Quality rating and to help fathers understand the importance of kindergarten readiness. Chris graduated from The Ohio State University in 2023, with degrees in Sociology and Public Affairs. He is committed to being a lifelong learner and helping young children across the county discover the joy of education. Chris and his fiancée Brooke reside in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Minister Jauneece Adams-Mitchell
    Consultant Angel Heart Foundation Minister Jauneece Adams is the Senior Pastor and founder of The Angel Heart Foundation, a faith-based Ministry providing trauma-informed counseling to youth and adults. With over 15 years of experience in Children and Family Services, she serves as a youth 1st aid Mental Health Responder and a mentor for Cleveland Metropolitan schools. Minister Adams also creates innovative educational programs, including financial literacy initiatives and a Real Estate STEM Program, empowering young minds for success. Her passion for mental health advocacy and dedication to community service make her a beacon of light and healing for those in need.
  • Shaun Barrett
    Senior Behavior Support Specialist The Ohio State University Nisonger Center Shaun graduated from The Ohio State University in 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Having a particular interest in behavioral science, Shaun went on to obtain his Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2017. He holds licenses as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst, and Developmental Specialist. He has worked with children as a lead toddler classroom teacher, direct service provider in Early Intervention, as well as a behavior specialist in Early Head Start. Shaun’s desire to work with children with developmental disabilities is largely due to growing up with a brother with autism. Combining his own family experiences with the professional knowledge he has gained, Shaun feels confident addressing the needs of the whole family. Partnering with those who champion the inclusion mindset, Shaun looks to further the accessibility to quality child care and developmental services for all children no matter what a family's walk of life may be. Shaun is married to his wife and has two young children. In his free time, Shaun enjoys playing board and card games with friends, relaxing by the river, and expressing his creativity through art and children's books.
  • Bonnie Berg-Simmons
    Librarian Twinsburg Public Library Bonnie Berg-Simmons is a librarian and Assistant Manager of Children's Services at the Twinsburg Public Library, where she has presented programming for Twinsburg's youngest residents for the last 10 years. She especially loves providing the space and resources for caregivers of young children to enjoy their community and thrive in their family life. Bonnie is a passionate supporter of early childhood education and hopes to continue making access to high-quality community resources a priority for all.
  • Monica Cardenas
    Professional Development & Support Specialist Monica Cardenas is a dedicated Professional Development and Support Specialist at HOPE Toledo, located in Toledo, OH. With a solid educational foundation, Monica earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Owens Community College. With over a decade of experience in the early childhood field, Monica has enhanced her skills and expertise to become a beacon of support and guidance for educators. Since a child, Monica's passion for teaching has been unwavering, driving her to pursue a career where she could directly impact the lives of children. Now, as a PDSS, Monica fulfills her purpose by working closely with teachers, imparting valuable insights, and reinforcing the profound influence they have on shaping the futures of young learners. Through her unwavering dedication and commitment, Monica endeavors to empower educators to reach their fullest potential, thereby enriching the educational landscape for generations to come.
  • Holly Conroy
    Prevention & Inclusion Programs Specialist Starting Point Holly Conroy has worked in the early childhood education field since 2016. Previously, she was an early childhood education teacher for several years before switching to her role now. Currently, she works as a Prevention and Inclusion Programs Specialist at Starting Point where she provides DECA technical assistance to UPK sites in Cuyahoga County. Holly is passionate about advocating for providing early intervention to children with disabilities or developmental delays along with providing families with affordable quality childcare.
  • Emily Cresswell
    Early Childhood Education Coach Miami Valley Child Development Center Emily Cresswell hails from Chicago, Illinois and relocated to the Dayton area in the summer of 2022. She is an Early Childhood Education Coach with Miami Valley Child Development Centers (in the Partnerships division). In her role, she works with both EHS and HS teachers serving children and families in Montgomery and Clark counties. Emily entered early childhood education in 1998 as an art teacher for young children. While studying illustration (at Columbia College Chicago) and teaching, Emily realized how much learning happened when children were engaged with the arts. This discovery led Emily to change her program major from illustration to Early Childhood Education with a minor in visual art. When Emily completed her BA degree in 2001, she remained a part-time art teacher and began her role as a full-time preschool teacher. Fast forward to 2024 and Emily has held the roles of art teacher, preschool teacher, assistant director, director, child development coordinator, curriculum specialist and now, early childhood education coach. As a coach, Emily enjoys helping teachers think about ways to integrate their own creativity into their practice of teaching. Emily’s passion is a combination of creating art herself, integrating the arts into learning (for children and adults) and advocating for keeping the creative arts as a vehicle for learning in the field. In her free time, Emily still makes her own work (drawing, mixed-media, painting, and sculpture) and participates in small shows/markets across the Midwest.
  • Simone Ellerson
    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant Nationwide Children’s Hospital Simone S. Ellerson has worked in the social services field for over 25 years. At an early age, her enjoyment of babysitting led to an interest in early childhood education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University focusing on Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health with a focus on emerging public health challenges and breakthroughs. Simone is a member of the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and a Board Trustee for City Music Columbus. City Music Columbus provides music education and music therapy services for children who otherwise may not have access to it. Her work experience includes being a Head Start Teacher, Family Services Advocate, Early Education Classroom Coach, Professional Development Instructor and Program Administrator of childcare for families transitioning from homelessness to housing. Her current role as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Central Ohio brings attention to early childhood mental health stigmas along with supporting the needs of caregivers to reach their goals for optimal parenting outcomes. Simone believes that early education and intervention partnered with empowering families strengthens our communities. She enjoys cheering on her favorite Ohio sports teams, listening to music and visiting outdoor festivals.
  • Samantha Forsythe
    Education Systems Coordinator Child Development Council of Franklin County Samantha Forsythe currently holds the position as Education Systems Coordinator for the Child Development Council of Franklin County, with over 10 years of experience as a Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) educator. Samantha was a Head Start student, a Head Start parent, and has held multiple positions including Assistant Teacher, EHS Lead Teacher, Home Visitor, and Home Base Service Coordinator. Samantha received her AAS in Early Childhood Development and Education from Columbus State Community College and is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Youth Studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.
  • Emily Gessner
    Early Childhood Educator Mom’s House Toledo Emily Gessner is an early childhood educator and advocate for universal access to high-quality, tuition-free public education for learners across all age groups. With three years of experience serving families and their children aged 6 weeks to 5 years, she embodies a commitment to breaking recurring barriers to opportunity and advancement through a multi-generational approach to education. She holds an Associate of Arts degree from Owens Community College and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a Legal Studies concentration from the University of Toledo. Emily serves as the Preschool Educator for Mom’s House of Toledo, Ohio. Grounded in the mission of Mom’s House, she strives to break cycles of intergenerational poverty by guiding at-risk single parents and their children toward educational goals, social-emotional skills, and effective parenting strategies. Alongside her dedication to advocating for the rights of children and families, she is a staunch supporter of fair pay and career growth for early childhood educators. With a focus on policy and legislation, she hopes to continue her work toward the development of holistic approaches to the care of children and integrated community support programs to effect systemic change.
  • Margeric Gonzalez
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Margeric Gonzalez is from Puerto Rico and relocated to Cleveland, OH following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master's Degree in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from Cleveland State University,Margeric is pursuing an Ed.D in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at Walden University. Her professional journey spans over 15 years, during which she has dedicated herself to the holistic development of children, particularly focusing on their social-emotional well-being by engaging in art activities. Margeric is deeply committed to advocating for enhanced opportunities for young children to flourish, fostering environments where they feel supported and empowered to cultivate resilience. Her diverse experience as an educator encompasses various roles, ranging from engagements at the Art Museum of Puerto Rico to teaching in preschools and serving as a Head Start teacher. Presently, Margeric is engaged in empowering Family Childcare Home providers through tailored training and coaching in Early Childhood Education. These endeavors are conducted under the auspices of Starting Point leadership, where she contributes toward shaping the future of early childhood education and fostering impactful change in our communities.
  • Dr. Linda Hicks
    ECE Career Navigator 4C for Children Dr. Linda Y. Hicks has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 33 years and she received her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Special Education and Education Leadership at The Union Institute and University in 2011. She began as an Itinerant Early Childhood Intervention Specialist, working for Cincinnati Public Schools for over 20+ years before starting as an Operations Manager for New Horizons Child Care Center. From there, Dr. Hicks began her role as a coach for Family Child Care Centers with 4C for Children in 2021. 4C for Children is a non-profit organization founded 51 years ago based in Cincinnati, Ohio that plays a crucial role in supporting parents, child care providers, preschool teachers, and early learning program administrators. Through her work at 4C, Dr. Hicks’ personal and professional mission aligns with the organization’s mission. As an educator, she aims to ensure high-quality early education and care for ALL children. She was promoted to the position of Early Childhood Career Navigator, which allows her to explore her passion for workforce development in Early Childhood Education. As a career navigator, some of Dr. Hicks’ key responsibilities include recruiting people outside of the field of early childhood to become an Early Care and Education provider, building relationships with childcare programs in need of early childhood educators, connecting recruited early childhood educators to fill the empty seats in ECE workforce settings, and creating and providing appropriate support, tools, and professional development to prepare new early childhood educators to enter the field. While not working, Dr. Hicks enjoys traveling, the Arts, yoga, being an absolute foodie, and walking her 16-year-old fur baby, Frankie. Her mission is to attract, train, and retain quality educators in Early Childhood Education and she is very enthusiastic about advocating for underserved populations and supporting causes that affect the good of the whole. Life is short, so she takes every opportunity to laugh and put a smile on someone’s face. Dr. Hicks’ favorite motivating bible verse is Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
  • Delaney Jones
    Social Worker Educational Service Center of North East Ohio Delaney (MSSA, LSW) is a graduate of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences where she studied Community Practice for Social Change. Delaney’s professional and educational background, focused in the area of young child/ family wellbeing, intertwines a micro- level study and practice (child behavior, family dynamics, trauma), with a macro- level focus and practice (policy and program development). Delaney currently serves as the Community Coordinator for the Safe Babies Program in Cuyahoga County where she is working alongside local child welfare, judicial, and social services leadership to plan, implement, develop, execute and evaluate the Safe Babies program model.
  • Tonya Kelly, M.Ed
    Principal Bridge Gate Community School Tonya Kelly is the esteemed proprietor of Empower Our Youth Foundation, a renowned local and national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to combating bullying. Tonya holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Canyon University. Tonya brings 13 years of invaluable expertise and experience in the educational sector to her role. Her unwavering commitment to fostering safe and inclusive environments for youth has earned her widespread recognition and admiration in the fields of anti-bullying advocacy, creating positive educational environments, promoting diversity and equity in the classroom, family education, and community engagement. Tonya's leadership and passion continues to drive positive change and empower countless young lives through education and support.
  • Angela Martin
    Early Head Start Home Visitor The Ohio University Early Head Start Angela Martin is an Early Head Start Home Visitor for Ohio State University. Her role with families is to encourage learning opportunities in the home, support developmental growth, and link to necessary services. Angela received her undergraduate degree in Family Studies from Ohio University and earned a master’s level certificate for Nonprofit and Public Leadership from the John Glenn College of Ohio State University. Throughout her career, Angela has focused on supporting families, particularly children, and her previous work has included being a caseworker for Franklin County Children Services and leading educational programs for the City of Groveport. In her over 25 years of job experience, it has been her honor to have worked with so many amazing children and families, helping them reach their full potential. It is Angela’s goal to expand her reach by becoming a strong advocate for children.
  • Keshia McCahill
    Executive Assistant Child Development Council of Franklin County Keshia McCahill is the current Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO of the Child Development Council of Franklin County, Inc. Keshia has over 10 years of experience in the Head Start community, in various states, and has held a myriad of positions ranging from teacher to executive assistant. Keshia is a graduate of The Ohio State University and received additional early childhood credentialing from Penn State University. To further her knowledge in the administrative field, Keshia has completed the IAAP CAP Program. In order to pursue her goals of being a strong advocate for children and families, Keshia strives to learn more each day. Outside of work, Keshia enjoys going to the horse races, cheering on her beloved Ohio State and Columbus Crew, and spending time with her husband Mark.
  • Brittney McCarey
    Student Armed with several years of experience in customer service roles, Brittany is pursuing a bachelor's degree in early childhood education at Grand Canyon University. She attended an Ohio aspiring educators' event to enhance her networking skills in this field. As a stay-at-home mom, Brittany also took positive parenting classes. Brittany is actively seeking opportunities to grow in early childhood education and hopes to gain valuable experience and contribute her skills to the fellowship.
  • Laura McFalls
    Early Childhood Specialist Akron-Summit County Public Library Laura McFalls is an Early Childhood Specialist with the Akron-Summit County Public Library, and an independent Early Childhood Education Consultant. She is a graduate of The University of Akron, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine and Applied Arts in Child and Family Development. Laura and her husband, Sean are the proud parents of three boys: Connor, Kyle, and their dog, Cody. They all happily call Akron home. Laura has been fortunate to work with teachers, children, and families in Northeast Ohio for the past 24 years. Prior to her community work with the public library system, Laura worked as a teacher with Akron Summit Community Action Head Start and The University of Akron Center for Child Development. Later she served as an administrator at an Early Childhood Learning Center, as well as a consultant and trainer with the Step Up to Quality initiative. It was through her work providing training, conducting classroom observations such as ECERS and CLASS®, mentoring, and coaching where Laura realized her passion for working with childcare providers and early childhood educators. She believes in lifelong learning to best provide resources to the teachers and families she serves. Laura continues to attend and present at local, statewide, and regional conferences, is a reliable CLASS Observer, and is a certified MMCI/CLASS Group Coaching Instructor. She is actively involved in several local professional organizations and sits on many early childhood committees throughout Summit County. Laura is thrilled to collaborate and develop relationships with the early childhood professionals she will be partnering with in this year’s cohort.
  • Jennifer McNellie
    Educator Starting Point Jennifer McNellie, MA, is the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator for Starting Point Child Care Resource and Referral in Cleveland, Ohio. Using the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) program data, Jennifer coordinates the program and provides professional development to early childhood educators. She focuses on increasing conversational turns between adults and children to strengthen the early childhood language environment. She also oversees Starting Point’s brand-new Digital Library and was responsible for curating the library collection. Before serving as the Literacy Program Partnerships Coordinator, Jennifer was an Early Education Program Specialist, Devereaux Early Childhood Assessment Specialist, and continues to teach the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential for Starting Point. Prior to her work with Starting Point, she worked for WQLN Public Broadcasting Station where she conducted educational training and CDA courses. Her career started as an Elementary Guidance Counselor in the public school system in PA. She graduated from West Virginia University with an MA in counseling and a BS in Psychology from Fairmont University. Throughout her 20+ years in the field of education, her commitment to supporting children’s social and emotional development has remained strong. Her passion for early literacy has continued to grow and she is overjoyed to be in her current role. In her free time, she loves spending time with family and friends, sharing charcuterie boards, walking, and watching sunsets on Lake Erie. Jennifer is happily married to her husband Mark and the proud mom of 3 successful young adults.
  • Courtney Nerad
    Executive Director St. Peter’s Child Care Center, Inc. Courtney Nerad is the Executive Director of St. Peter’s Child Care Center in Lakewood. She started as the Preschool Teacher there in 2002 and has held many different positions at the Center. As the Executive Director, she can utilize her experience from these varied positions to guide her staff in providing quality care and education to the children at the Center. She is proud to work with a diverse group of early childhood professionals and aspires to continue to lead them to provide the children and families with a safe, loving environment that promotes growth and development of all the children in their care. She began her educational studies at Lorain Community College and received her associate degree in early childhood education in 1998. In 2007, she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Colorado Technical University and in 2018, she received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Cincinnati. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, outdoor adventures, attending sporting events with her husband, and visiting her son, Hunter, in Florida. She also loves animals and has 4 cats and two dogs of her own.
  • Katy Philpot
    Teacher Dayton Public Schools Katy Philpot is a preschool intervention specialist at Dayton Public Schools. Her love of education started as a young girl in her home “teaching” her stuffed animals and playing school each day. She has formally been in the education field for 15 years. She graduated from Wittenberg University in 2009 swearing up and down she would never go into early childhood education. Soon after, she entered the world of preschool and immediately fell in love. The pure wonder and joy each day brought was magnificent. In 2018 she went to Mount St. Joseph and got her pre kindergarten special needs endorsement. She believes all children can learn and all children can and need to have a voice. In her building she serves on multiple leadership committees and has headed up the “Sunshine Committee” to spread joy around the building throughout the year. She consistently works on ways to make school more inclusive for all learners and is currently working on a project to get an adaptive playground for her building. In her free time she loves reading and going on adventures with her two young boys.
  • Jennifer Rigano
    Early Intervention Specialist Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities Jennifer Rigano currently works as a Help Me Grow- Early Intervention Developmental Specialist with the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Upon her graduation from The Ohio State University in Early Childhood Development, Jennifer spent 15 years in the kids fitness world working with children ages 1-12. In that time, she developed and ran an independent kids fitness program that incorporated her child development knowledge to teach kids that moving their bodies could be fun and keep them healthy. During this experience, she had children with developmental disabilities who took part in her classes. Her love for that population of children grew and she decided to make a career change and use her childhood development knowledge in a new capacity. She started in the Union County Board of DD’s preschool as a classroom assistant and moved into Early Intervention where she has served families for the past 3 years. Jennifer is passionate about coaching and walking alongside families to give them the confidence and strategies to help their children live meaningful, joy-filled lives. In her spare time, she enjoys attending her 3 children’s extra-curricular activities and spending time with them, her husband, and her two dogs on their 5 acres of land.
  • Dr. Allison Riggle
    Project Manager Nationwide Children’s Hospital Allison Riggle is a Project Manager in the Community Wellness Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing support to school readiness and high school graduation initiatives, she coordinates Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library. Prior to working in health care, she directed student services programming at community colleges and universities in Arkansas, Indiana, and Florida. She has a master’s degree in social work from Indiana University and a doctoral degree in education from the University of West Florida.
  • Meghan Scott
    Early Education Program Specialist Starting Point Megan Scott is an Early Education Program Specialist at Starting Point Child Care Resource & Referral. She graduated from Lake Erie College with a BA in Early Childhood Education and has been in the early childhood field for over 20 years, working as both a teacher and program administrator. Meghan has a passion for the non-profit industry, she enjoys connecting and building relationships with families, and being involved in the community. Meghan is always ready to lend a helping hand and volunteer at work and community events. In her current role, the opportunity to support early childhood teachers in reaching their goals and help guide them to be their best is what drives her daily work. Outside of work, Meghan enjoys spending time with family, especially her nieces and nephew, traveling with friends, and exploring the outdoors. Meghan feels honored to begin this journey as part of the Groundwork Fellowship and looks forward to strengthening and building upon her leadership and advocacy skills to provide a greater impact to children and families.
  • Michelle Shelton
    Administrator the Learning Grove Michelle Shelton is the Center Director for Learning Grove, a 5-star rated nonprofit early learning center in Cincinnati. She has more than 25 years of experience in the early childhood education field ranging from teaching in a classroom early on in the early 2000’s to being a Center Director along with a short time as a Multi-unit Manager and Accreditation liaison for several centers. Along with center experience, Michelle also had the opportunity to work for her local resource and referral agency in her hometown of Cincinnati as a community services coordinator. During her 25 years in the field, Michelle obtained an Infant Toddler CDA and later in life went to college and received her degree in Early Childhood education through the University of Cincinnati. Michelle gives back to the early childhood community by being an Ohio OCCRRA approved trainer where she can present to professionals on child development and related topics as well as a CDA PD specialist. Michelle has been blessed with six children and a best friend who she calls her husband. In 2020, she had the pleasure of joining the grandparents club and now has three grandchildren who are the absolute loves of her life. In Michelle's spare time, she enjoys spending time with my husband and family, going on family vacations, having adventures on their motorcycle, and enjoying life as a wife, mom and Nonna.
  • Emilee Stahl
    Trainer/EI Service Coordinator Franklin County Family & Children’s First Council Emilee Stahl is currently a trainer and service coordinator for Franklin County Early Intervention. She is responsible for training new staff as well as meeting with families, providing developmental screenings and coordinating developmental evaluations and/or providing activities to continue children’s development. Emilee graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in Education and focused studies in Early Learning throughout her schooling. She worked at OSUs Child Care Center throughout college and upon graduating. Emilee joined Early Intervention in 2020. Emilee’s passion and love has always been with children ages birth-5 years old and finds excitement and joy working with families and young children. Emilee is excited to learn how to better advocate for the families and children she serves everyday. In her free time, Emilee loves traveling to different amusement and theme parks with her husband and family. She enjoys going on adventures with her niece and nephews and watching them grow and learn as well.
  • Mary Taylor
    Nurse Franklin County Public Health Mary Taylor, BSN RN is a dedicated Public Health Nurse professional for over 7 years and has over 11 years’ experience in Pediatric Nursing. Mary is currently the Maternal & Child Health, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for the Children with Medical Handicaps (CMH) Program at Franklin County Public Health (FCPH). Mary spent her first 6 years with FCPH as a Public Health Nurse providing case management services and home visits to children with special health care needs. Mary recently moved into the supervisor role overseeing the CMH program at FCPH. Mary is a Safe Sleep Ambassador, a member of the Association of Public Health Nurses, and a Mentor of the Region V New to Public Health Mentorship Program. Through these experiences, Mary has gained a great deal of knowledge in managing care coordination and home visiting programs for birthing individuals, infants, children, and young adults transitioning to an adult care environment. In addition, Mary has gained experience of promoting health equity for the communities served and she is strongly invested in driving community health initiatives to reduce health disparities.
  • Joy Welch-Bey
    Program Manager Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood Joy Welch-Bey serves as the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program Manager for Invest in Children, overseeing the award-winning UPK program, including the budget and expenditures for all UPK sites as well as communication and policy creation for the program and maintaining strategic partnerships within the early childhood education community. She joined Invest in Children in 2023 but has been with Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services for over 10 years, where she has been devoted to ensuring the most basic needs of Cuyahoga County’s families and children are met, in a variety of roles from Eligibility Specialist to Child Care Licensing Supervisor to managing the Job and Family Services Hearings Department. She holds a Master of Education degree specializing in Educational Administration, from The University of Akron and is passionate about advocacy and mentoring for children and young adults in underserved communities. In her spare time, she volunteers with mentoring programs such as True2U, an innovative youth mentoring and career awareness program and College Now Mentoring Program, a virtual mentoring program to help increase retention and graduation of college students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Samantha Whatley
    Site Administrator Step Forward Samantha Whatley is a Site Administrator for Step Forward in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been in the Early Education field for over 15 years and has been a Head Start Site Administrator since 2016. Samantha is a PD Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She serves on the PRE4CLE Steering Committee. Samantha received her Bachelor's in ECE from the University of Toledo in 2011. In addition, she holds a Master's Degree in Adult Education and, in 2024, will receive her second Master's Degree in Early Childhood Leadership. As an early childhood leader, Samantha is committed to actively engaging in and supporting our community organizations that maintain ethical and social justice practices. In addition, she enjoys being able to educate teachers, families, and children as she works to advocate for the ECE field.
  • Sarah Zang
    Program Coordinator Action for Children Sarah Zang is a mother, former Family Child Care provider, and currently Program Coordinator for Ohio’s first Staffed Family Child Care Network, “The Village” at Action for Children. Sarah’s desire to work with children and ensure their healthy development became a loud calling for her when she had her first daughter. Taking a nanny position to stay close to her new family, Sarah developed many skills and a strong passion for working with kids. After several years, and a couple more children of her own, she opened a Family Child Care business out of her home. When the opportunity presented itself to run a non-profit youth dance studio, Sarah eagerly accepted the role, indulging in another lifelong passion- the arts. She continued her work with young children through this program, watching them develop and build confidence during classes and performances. Remembering her time as an FCC business owner, and the struggles that come with owning a small business, Sarah was excited to accept her current role at Action for Children and the opportunity to assist current Family Child Care professionals and advocate for them. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as traveling and dancing.
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