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Get to Know Groundwork: Jacob Oates, Program Manager

As part of our “Get to Know Groundwork” series, we've been spotlighting members of our amazing team. This week, we’re getting to know Jacob Oates, who joined Groundwork Ohio in June of 2024.

As Program Manager, Jacob will manage many of Groundwork Ohio’s crucial audiences, including professionals, families, community leaders, policymakers, and others through effective programming, operations, events, and communications.

Jacob has spent his career supporting early childhood education in multiple roles and capacities. He began his early childhood journey as a classroom teacher, learning the skills and dedication needed to support young children in an early childhood setting. He quickly became aware of the impact that early childhood education has on young children of all backgrounds and abilities through his roles of program coordinator, administrator, and manager at the Nisonger Early Learning Program. These opportunities and roles allowed him to expand on and impact the lives of the families at the center.

Through his time at the Nisonger Early Learning Program, Jacob encountered many of the challenges families have expressed in accessing and affording child care. He also saw the necessity for program funding at its core and the need for advocates in early childhood education.

Jacob graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in education, where he was a part of the Unified Sports program at the intramural level. Jacob has a passion for supporting families with a child or adult with a developmental delay or disability, and his time at the Nisonger Center and Unified Sports sculpted this avidity. Jacob stays connected to organizations such as Special Olympics Ohio and DSACO. He lives in Columbus with his wife and in his free time enjoys geography and history-themed trivia, sports, and board games.


Check out our Q&A with Jacob to learn more about why he’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio. 


Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why.”

 A:  In my role in early childhood education, I couldn’t help but notice the challenges that families face when it comes to gaining access to child care or funds for support of child care. Working with families and Publicly Funded Child care, I saw the internal and external hardship that parents and single-family households went through to keep their children in school. My why for joining Groundwork Ohio is to make a true impact on the ground level to give families the support and voice to be heard over the issues of gaining quality and affordable child care.


Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work? 

 A: Be the example. Whether this was instilled in me as a young high school athlete or in my experience in early learning, being the example for an issue or conflict by leading and supporting those that need help is a lesson that I have held on to and try and walk by day-to-day. Educating and leading others on the topic of early childhood are a couple of ways I try to “be the example” each day.


Q: What’s your word for 2024? 

 A: My word for 2024 is Aim. No matter what you are attempting, overcoming, or learning, always Aim for your desired outcome. This is primarily an archery term, but I find it applies to life as well. In archery, you must fix the arrow to the bowstring, point, and focus before letting the arrow loose. In life, whatever we are targeting, we must first gather information, set a goal, and focus to get the results that we want. My Aim for this year is setting ambitious goals and strategies to direct efforts toward improving the educational experiences and outcomes for young children.


Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?

A:  In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my family and playing board games. I grew up in a sports-dominated household, so I am no stranger to competition and games. My wife and I spend a lot of time with family and friends and enjoy pool, reading, and walking outside.


Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers. 

A: A single mother of two who was denied access to the child care that her kids once attended can finally walk her children back through the front doors now that she has the support and access to funding needed to enroll them. The mother now has the time to pursue her career knowing that her children are being supported and accessing quality care.

Connect with Jacob on LinkedIn or by email.


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