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Groundwork Ohio Announces Early Childhood Fellowship Class of 2025

More than two dozen early childhood professionals from across the state will meet annually

Columbus, OH: Groundwork Ohio is thrilled to announce the Class of 2025 Early Childhood Fellowship, a network of early childhood professionals throughout the state who will spend the next year receiving training and support to enhance their leadership skills and advocacy outreach.

The Fellowship utilizes a unique curriculum consisting of keynote speakers, online learning experiences, discussions with policymakers, networking opportunities, technical assistance, and small group projects. Upon completion of the program, Fellows will have a better understanding of how to be successful advocates for themselves, infants and toddlers, families, and their community.

“We have an exuberant group of Fellows this year who are ready to hit the ground running toward the goal of making Ohio the best place to be a young child,” said Troy Hunter, Director of Research, Performance, and Evaluation for Groundwork Ohio. “We are excited to offer a revised program for Fellows including more than 35 hours of professional development. Our Fellowship is mission-critical. We elevate early childhood professionals as unique experts and emerging advocates to champion early childhood policies. We are building an advocacy army by giving the early childhood workforce the opportunity to grow in their advocacy and leadership skills."

This year’s class includes passionate early childhood professionals from in-home and center-based providers, home visitors, child development specialists, child welfare professionals, early childhood mental health providers, preschool educators, maternal, infant, early childhood health professionals, and higher education professionals. The class will meet in a series of virtual and in-person conversations and prepare for Groundwork Ohio’s Advocacy Day on March 12, 2025, where they’ll have a chance to interact with their state policymakers.

Since the inception of the Fellowship, 109 early childhood educators have taken part in the program, representing 31 counties in the state, 48 out of 99 Ohio House of Representatives Districts, 26 out of 33 Ohio Senate Districts, and 14 out of 16 U.S. House of Representatives Districts.


Class of 2025 Fellows

  • Chris Acock, Early Learning Policy Analyst, Franklin County

  • Minister Jauneece Adams-Mitchell, Consultant, Angel Heart Foundation

  • Shaun Barrett, Senior Behavior Support Specialist, The Ohio State University Nisonger Center

  • Bonnie Berg-Simmons, Librarian, Twinsburg Public Library

  • Monica Cardenas, Professional Development & Support Specialist, HOPE Toledo

  • Holly Conroy, Prevention & Inclusion Programs Specialist, Starting Point, Cuyahoga County

  • Emily Cresswell, Early Childhood Education Coach, Miami Valley Child Development Center

  • Simone Ellerson, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

  • Samantha Forsythe, Education Systems Coordinator, Child Development Council of Franklin County

  • Emily Gessner, Early Childhood Educator, Mom’s House Toledo

  • Margeric Gonzalez, Early Education Program Specialist, Starting Point

  • Dr. Linda Hicks, ECE Career Navigator, 4C for Children

  • Delaney Jones, Social Worker, Educational Service Center of North East Ohio

  • Tonya Kelly, M.Ed, Principal, Bridge Gate Community School

  • Angela Martin, Early Head Start Home Visitor, The Ohio University Early Head Start

  • Keshia McCahill, Executive Assistant, Child Development Council of Franklin County

  • Brittney McCarey, Early childhood education student

  • Laura McFalls, Early Childhood Specialist, Akron-Summit County Public Library

  • Jennifer McNellie, Educator, Starting Point, Cleveland

  • Courtney Nerad, Executive Director, St. Peter’s Child Care Center Inc., Lakewood

  • Katy Philpot, Teacher, Dayton Public Schools

  • Jennifer Rigano, Early Intervention Specialist, Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities

  • Dr. Allison Riggle, Project Manager, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

  • Meghan Scott, Early Education Program Specialist, Starting Point

  • Michelle Shelton, Administrator, the Learning Grove

  • Emilee Stahl, Trainer/EI Service Coordinator, Franklin County Family & Children’s First Council

  • Mary Taylor, Nurse, Franklin County Public Health

  • Joy Welch-Bey, Program Manager, Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood

  • Samantha Whatley, Site Administrator, Step Forward, Cleveland

  • Sarah Zang, Program Coordinator, Action for Children

More information about the Fellowship can be found online and in our recently published Early Childhood Fellowship Report.


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