Policy Leadership Academy

“Not only did PLA connect me with other individuals who are passionate about improving early childhood quality and capacity across our state, it increased my awareness about the processes that drive the system of care for Nebraska’s youngest citizens. PLA built a strong foundational knowledge so I can confidently advocate for changes and enhancements to early childhood policies that impact providers and families every day.”

— Lindsey Jarecki, Class 1, Boone County Foundation Fund, Albion

Early childhood advocates across Nebraska are leading efforts to embed early childhood care and education into conversations where decisions are made, including community organizations, local governments and the Nebraska Legislature. The Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy helps advocates elevate their voices to shape the conversation about how early care and learning programs impact economic growth, workforce development, education and quality of life in our state.

Policy Leadership Academy participants:

  • Build valuable relationships with educators, business leaders, policymakers and others
  • Deepen their understanding of policymaking
  • Connect and learn from early childhood peers in communities

Participation in the PLA is a six-month commitment from October 2021 to April 2022. The program consists of four day-long, in-person meetings in communities across the state. Associated expenses for in-person meetings are reimbursed by PLA.

The majority of PLA applicants are recruited from locations that currently participate in Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Communities for Kids (C4K) initiative. For the 2021-22 class, special emphasis will be placed on applicants from C4K partnerships in Ashland, Bertrand, Buffalo County, Dakota County, Dodge County, Douglas County, Giltner, Kimball County, Nemaha County, O’Neill, Overton and Sarpy County.

What is the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy?

This non-partisan initiative is designed to help citizen-leaders better understand the policymaking process and develop their skills as advocates for public policies that support development of young children. Participants in this program:

  • Learn more about how early childhood fits within their communities’ social, educational and economic structure
  • Better understand how decisions are made in local government, the Nebraska Legislature and state agencies
  • Identify and engage with the people who make and influence policy decisions in their communities and legislative districts
  • Network, exchange ideas and collaborate with other champions for early childhood policy throughout the state

What is Involved?

The 2021/2022 Policy Leadership Academy consists of four in-person meetings in multiple locations throughout the state every other month from September 2021 through March 2022. Class members will receive a stipend to cover expenses associated with attending each meeting, including mileage, meals and accommodations. Each meeting includes an opportunity for members to meet and network on the evening before the full-day session.

An application submitted for the 2021-2022 program represents a good-faith commitment to participate fully in all scheduled meetings.

How to Apply

2021-22 Class Schedule

September 14-15, 2021

Class 3 of the Academy launches with a special two-day event featuring a welcome dinner and orientation, followed by a day-long session on making the case for early childhood with influencers and decision makers in your community.


November 10, 2021

A look at local municipal structures — city government, school boards, local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, etc. — and how they factor in conversations about early childhood policy.


January 12, 2022
Broken Bow

Learn how policy and funding decisions are made in the legislative, administrative and executive divisions of state government. We will also discuss ways to build productive conversations with policymakers.


February 15-16, 2022

Class 3 concludes with another two-day event in the state capital, including a graduation dinner and networking opportunity followed by a day the the Nebraska Legislature and a visit with your district senator.

* Session topics may be subject to change

For meetings 2 (Sidney) and 3 (Broken Bow), PLA members are encouraged to meet for dinner and networking the evening prior to the full-day session.

Who Should Apply?

Participants in the Academy are selected primarily from locations participating in Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Communities for Kids initiative.

First Five Nebraska is committed to promoting the well-being and positive outcomes of all children and families regardless of race, ethnicity or culture. We welcome and strongly encourage Academy applicants who can contribute a diversity of experiences and perspectives to our program.

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