top of page

Get to Know Groundwork: Malissa Harris, Policy Associate

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 Malissa Harris, who joined Groundwork Ohio in June of 2024.

As a Policy Associate, Malissa will provide critical assistance and support to Groundwork Ohio’s policy team and support the implementation and execution of Groundwork’s Family Action Network to elevate the voices of young families with young children.  


Malissa has spent her career working in early childhood education at Little Miracles EDC and is dedicated to improving outcomes for children and families. Through her work as an early childhood educator and Assistant Director, Malissa provided vital support in helping families with screenings and referrals. She helped to manage and oversee a 5-star Step Up To Quality program and created a system to help the center maintain its 5-star rating, which included creating a child portfolio system, providing assessments, partnering with Early Start Columbus and the Child Development Council of Franklin County Head Start, and assisting new early childhood educators with the skills to help them be successful in the classroom.   


Most recently, Malissa worked as an Americorps VISTA at United Way of Central Ohio. She helped support United Way of Central Ohio’s Tax Time Program, which provides free high-quality tax preparation services to families of low- and moderate-incomes. In her role, she supported a small team to find sponsorships, recruit volunteers, partner with other non-profit organizations, research tax credits, and lead the implementation of their first Tax Time Pilot.


Malissa received her undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati in Early Childhood Education and her graduate degree from The Ohio State University in Education Policy. Malissa’s interests include ensuring all families have access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education. 


In addition to her role at Groundwork Ohio, Malissa is passionate about families being advocates for their own children. She sits on the Child Development Council of Franklin County’s Policy Council as co-chair and is also a part of the Ohio Head Start Parent Advocacy Network. 


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

Malissa and her family.

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: When attending the Annual Conference for the National Association of the Education for Young Children (NAEYC) in 2018, I signed up for a conference session that presented insight into the Child Care Block Development Grant (CCDBG) as it was an opportunity for me to learn more about how early learning is funded. When I came back to Columbus, I talked to the owners at Little Miracles EDC and told them that we needed to become the voices for families and early childhood education. I wanted to advocate for access to affordable high-quality early childhood education even though I did not know much about early childhood policy research or advocacy. This also inspired me to go to The Ohio State University for Education Policy. I focused my master’s on advocating for high-quality, affordable child care for families and early childhood educators’ wage disparities.


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: The best piece of advice that I have received is “Keep Trying.” It can be daunting to be a catalyst for change but when you find people who have the same goal in mind, it’s easier to bring about change. I think that takes courage to not give up on whatever your goal(s) are.

Q: What’s your word for 2024?

A: My word for 2024 is Add. I want to bring new experiences and people into my life to advance my own growth. I have begun to add people into my life outside of the colleagues who I spent nine years working alongside in the early childhood field. I think that I have made connections that will last a lifetime. I can be introverted when I first meet people, so I have tried to overcome that within the last year.

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 spending time with my family visiting different places around Columbus and the state. Our favorite places this summer are the pool, splash pads, COSI, and exploring the different parks. My mom and I spend a lot of time together watching Korean or Chinese dramas as well.

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

A: My vision for the future of Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers is that they have access to all the resources and supports that they need to be successful. This would include access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education, early intervention, health care services, etc.

Connect with Malissa on LinkedIn or by email.


bottom of page