Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy

Leaders Wanted

Applications are now open for the 2024-25 Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy. Apply here

What is the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy?

The Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy (PLA) is our state’s premier, non-partisan leadership development program focused entirely on creating momentum to influence policy issues that affect the care, education and healthy development of young children. Now entering its sixth year, PLA members and alumni are part of a dynamic, statewide network of advocates who serve as a valued resource to their communities and the public officials who represent them.

What will I gain as a member of the PLA?

  • Understand the role of early childhood systems in your community’s overall infrastructure
  • Become familiar with the inner workings of the policymaking process at the state and local levels
  • Learn grassroots advocacy strategies to mobilize local resources and allies in pursuit of early childhood policy objectives
  • Develop authentic and productive relationships with public officials in local government, state agencies and the Nebraska Legislature
  • Gain access to insight and information by connecting to a growing, statewide network of PLA alumni

 What is expected of Policy Leadership Academy participants?

Building your policy knowledge and advocacy skills is equally challenging and rewarding—and, often, even fun! But getting the most out of your experience in the PLA requires a serious commitment to the program and its activities.

  • Attend all four in-person workshops and one virtual workshop between October 2024 and March 2025.
  • In-person workshops are held at locations across the state and may involve overnight stays. First Five Nebraska reimburses participants for meals, mileage and lodging expenses directly associated with attendance at workshops.
  • In-person workshops typically run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Where applicable, participants are expected to verify that their employers agree to their attendance at program workshops and involvement in related advocacy activities.
  • Participants are expected to complete course assignments between workshops, culminating in a capstone project focused on a current or potential early childhood policy issue related to their community’s needs or personal interests. Participants will deliver a capstone project presentation to their classmates at the concluding PLA workshop in March 2025.
  • Graduates from the PLA program are are expected to be fully involved in workshop activities and discussions, and capable of engaging productively with peers and policy leaders representing different political and social viewpoints.

An application submitted for the Policy Leadership Academy represents a good-faith commitment to remain engaged with peer-learning activities and ongoing advocacy efforts following graduation from the program.


Who should apply?

The Policy Leadership Academy welcomes participants who have an authentic commitment to creating policy changes in their communities and our state. We welcome applicants with a broad array of professional and personal experience, civic involvement and cultural backgrounds.

This includes:

  • Child care providers, home visitors and others committed to elevating early care and learning professions as viable and rewarding careers
  • Healthcare professionals and administrators seeking to strengthen prenatal care, maternal care and other services necessary to ensure healthy outcomes for young children and their families
  • K-12 and post-secondary educators working to maximize the effectiveness and impact of Nebraska’s schools by putting our youngest kids on the path to lifelong learning from their earliest years
  • Employers, economic developers and chamber of commerce leaders who recognize quality early childhood programs as a key driver of workforce development and economic opportunity throughout the state
  • Nonprofit, civic and municipal leaders who advocate for the early childhood needs of communities that are typically under-represented in policy conversations

Apply here for the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy

Featured Publications

Jodi-Renee Girón
Jodi-Renee Girón

Grassroots and Outreach Advisor

Application Window

May 1 through June 10

2024-25 Program Schedule

Workshop locations to be announced

Workshop 1 | Oct. 8-9, 2024
Orientation dinner / Building a movement that shapes early childhood policy

Workshop 2 | Nov. 6, 2024
Influencing local policy

Workshop 3 | Jan. 15, 2025
Influencing policy at the state level (Virtual/Zoom workshop)

Workshop 4 | Feb. 5, 2025
A day at the Unicameral

Workshop 5 | Mar. 12, 2025
Capstone project presentations and graduation

“The Policy Leadership Academy helped broaden my statewide network and gave me a new appreciation for the challenges Nebraskans face to access high-quality early childhood education. As an economic developer, I believe this issue is integral to attracting and retaining talent and combatting our workforce issues. Simply stated, Nebraska will not grow without making early childhood a priority. The PLA helps cultivate that message.”

Luke Virgil, Class of 2021-22

Executive Director, Wayne Area Economic Development

I never thought I could have learned so much before participating in the Policy Leadership Academy. I have come to understand the legislative process and how I can influence it with the guidance and support of the PLA. I’m eager to move forward with what I’ve learned to better support the North and South Omaha communities.

Aiesha Rahn, Class of 2021-22

AVP, Early Childhood Programs, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Not only did the 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, PLA Class of 2018-19

Boone County Foundation Fund