Over the next few weeks, Groundwork Ohio is publishing a “Get to Know Groundwork” series, spotlighting members of our amazing team! This week, we’re getting to know Shannon Jones, Groundwork's President & CEO. Shannon has been leading the Groundwork team since January 2017.
Over the past five years, Shannon has transformed Groundwork Ohio into a highly respected public policy and advocacy organization. Through Shannon’s commitment to building key partnerships, mobilizing stakeholders, and communicating thoughtfully with core constituencies and the media to influence and educate policymakers, Groundwork is now the recognized leader in early childhood policy and advocacy in Ohio.
Under Shannon’s trusted leadership, Groundwork has pioneered several groundbreaking initiatives, including the Ohio Early Childhood Race and Rural Equity project and the launch of three innovative Centers of Excellence. Another enterprising achievement of Shannon’s leadership is the creation of the Vote for Ohio Kids campaign, a unique alliance between Groundwork Ohio and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association in partnership with business, health care, early education leaders, and child advocates to ensure Ohio’s policymakers prioritize children’s early education and health.
Prior to joining Groundwork, Shannon served in the Ohio General Assembly for a decade as a state representative and a state senator, where she was chosen by her colleagues for key leadership posts in both chambers. She is the only woman in her party, and first in Ohio history, ever to achieve the distinction of election to the leadership teams in both chambers. Known as a leader who is willing to tackle the most difficult and complex issues, Shannon used her trusted influence to put kids at the top of the legislative agenda.
Shannon earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. She currently serves as a Warren County Commissioner and as a board member for the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, the Warren County United Way, the Warren County Foundation, and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. She also serves on the Human Services and Education Committee for the National Association of Counties. In 2021, Shannon was appointed to the Governor’s Eliminating Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality Task Force aimed at addressing Ohio’s racial disparities in infant mortality. Shannon is a prestigious Rodel Fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Institute, one of only 300 public servants nationally to have achieved that honor.
Check out our Q&A with Shannon to learn more about why she’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: I became passionate about moms and babies as a state legislator after hearing from the parents who were brave enough to share their stories of infant loss. As a mother myself, I could imagine no deeper pain than to lose one of my own children. And I was really haunted by the blaring inequity in the infant mortality rates between white babies and Black babies. Why were more Black mothers experiencing this unimaginable loss than white mothers? As chair of the Senate Health & Medicaid Committee, I vowed to learn more and do something about it.
Working across the aisle with my colleague, Senator Charleta Tavares, we took the committee on a statewide learning tour. Spending the summer traveling to all corners of the state, listening to the parents who lost children before their first birthdays, and hearing about promising interventions aimed at reducing preterm birth and low birth weight forever changed my perspective and ignited a desire in me to ensure all Ohio children not only reach their first birthday but are thriving and ready for school and beyond.
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: Listen to families. They are the true experts in their children’s lives.
Q: Groundwork Ohio’s word for 2022 is ELEVATE. What’s your word for 2022?
A: Trust. Trust is the currency of our work. I trust those who are brave enough to share their stories with me and they can trust me to honor their experiences and be a good steward of their expertise.
Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?
A: My husband, Russell, and our two children, Jake (22) and Anna (18), are avid sports fans. We love to watch our beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and University of Dayton Flyers play basketball and strive for a place in the NCAA tournament. We also love to tailgate at Cincinnati Bengals games and grew fond this year of them playing for the Lombardi Trophy. Since my son is an actor, we also spend a lot of time at the theater, too.
Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
A: My dream would be that all children and their families would have the same opportunities that my own family has enjoyed… loving and responsive caregivers able to meet their physical, mental, and social needs, access to high quality early interventions and supports that prepare them for school and life success, and freedom from trauma and abuse.