Policy Leadership Academy

The application period for the 2023-24 Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy is closed.

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 fifth 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
  • Acquire an “insider” understanding of the policymaking process at the state and local levels
  • Learn how to mobilize local resources and allies to build political momentum for early childhood issues
  • Develop authentic relationships with public officials in local government, state agencies and the Nebraska Legislature
  • Exchange insights and information with a growing community of PLA alumni throughout the state

 What is expected of Policy Leadership Academy participants?

  • Attend all 4 in-person workshops and 1 virtual workshop beginning with an orientation banquet in October 2023 and concluding with a graduation ceremony in March 2024.
  • In-person workshops are held at locations across the state. Expenses for meals, mileage and accommodations will be reimbursed.
  • Workshops typically run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members are expected to verify that their employers agree to their participation in workshops and related advocacy activity.
  • Participants will complete a PLA Capstone Project focused on a current or potential policy issue related to early childhood. This project involves meeting with their district senator and an end-of-program presentation to their PLA colleagues at the March 2024 workshop.
  • As alumni, participants are expected to remain engaged in peer learning and early childhood advocacy.

An application submitted for the Policy Leadership Academy represents a good-faith commitment to participate fully in all scheduled meetings.


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 experience, civic involvement and cultural backgrounds. 

We particularly encourage:

  • Child care providers, health care providers and other professionals involved in delivering services and supports for Nebraska families with young children
  • Employers, economic developers and local chamber of commerce leaders
  • Civic leaders
  • Individuals representing communities that are typically underrepresented in policy conversations
  • Advocates who are willing to interact productively with policy leaders representing different political and social viewpoints.

2023-24 Schedule

October 17-18, 2023

Understanding your community’s early childhood profile

We launch our 2023-24 program with a special 2-day event, featuring a welcome dinner and orientation, followed by a full-day workshop on how early childhood systems connect to local infrastructure.

November 15, 2023
Building an early childhood movement at the local level
Our November meeting focuses on the structures and processes involved in policymaking at the municipal, county or regional levels, as well as strategies to map and mobilize local assets for early childhood advocacy in your community.

January 17, 2024
Influencing policy at the statewide level

We begin our examination of how legislative and administrative policy is made, review FFN priority policies introduced in the 2023 Unicameral and prepare for our meetings with state senators at the Capitol in February.

February 21, 2024
A day at the Unicameral

The Academy meets in Lincoln to attend committee hearings and listen to floor debate at the Capitol. Academy participants will meet with their senators and/or legislative staff to discuss early childhood policy priorities.

March 19-20, 2024
Reflection and graduation

We conclude the 2023-24 program by sharing insights and lessons learned from the day at the Unicameral, discussing ongoing advocacy efforts as alumni of the PLA and participating in our Class 5 graduation celebration.

Featured Publications

Download the 2023-24 PLA Brochure




Jodi-Renee Girón
Jodi-Renee Girón

Grassroots and Outreach Advisor

“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