Policy Leadership Academy

The application period for the 2022-23 Class of the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy is now closed.

Leaders at all levels of government are called upon to address early childhood issues in the context of K-12 and higher education, public health and safety, job creation, economic development and even national security. As this trend increases, so does the need for active and well-informed advocates to help public officials make better decisions about policies that impact the well-being of our youngest children, families, communities and state.

What is the Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy?

Now entering its fourth year, the Policy Leadership Academy is the state’s premier, non-partisan leadership development program focused on empowering citizen-advocates to contribute information and insight so the policymaking process at all levels of government will benefit young children and create social, educational and economic opportunity for all Nebraskans.

Participants in the 2022-2023 Academy will: 

  • Learn how to analyze local early childhood infrastructure and how it connects to their community’s broader social, educational and economic profile
  • Acquire in ‘insider’ understanding of the policymaking process in state and local government from current and former elected officials, and other specialists in government affairs
  • Identify and mobilize local resources and contacts to build political momentum for early childhood issues at the grassroots and grasstops levels
  • Position themselves as  credible sources of information and insight to elected officials who develop and/or implement public policy
  • Become regularly and actively involved in a statewide network of current PLA members and alumni

 What is expected of Policy Leadership Academy participants?

  • Attendance at all 4 in-person workshops and 1 virtual workshop beginning with an orientation banquet in October 2022 and concluding with a graduation ceremony in March 2023. 
  • 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 capstone project that includes meeting with their district state senator at the State Capitol in February.
  • 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:

  • Early childhood providers
  • 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.

2022-23 Schedule

October 11-12, 2022
Broken Bow
Understanding your community’s early childhood profile

We launch our 2022-23 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 16, 2022
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 25, 2023
Influencing policy at the statewide level

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

February 22, 2023
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 15, 2023
North Platte
Reflection and graduation

We conclude the 2022-23 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 4 graduation celebration.

Featured Publications

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


“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, Class of 2018-19
Boone County Foundation Fund,