First Up creates new connections with government officials, partners, and funders to establish a collaborative network that is dedicated to improving education for our youngest learners, today and every day to come.

Building Partnerships

By supporting the continual improvement of Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals and organizations for over half a century, First Up has become the Greater Philadelphia region’s most trusted partner and advocate for high-quality ECE programs and professionals. When advancing an agenda of awareness and advocacy, collaboration is key to success and we are proud to team up with the following partners to effect change as a core part of our mission fulfillment:

  • Community Design Collaborative: First Up and the Community Design Collaborative (CDC) partnered to create Play Space, a citywide series that included a design competition, family building days, exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and “Play Talks” with national experts. Play Space challenged designers, public leaders, educators, childcare providers, families, and communities to share their perspectives on play space and to re-imagine outdoor play spaces for Philadelphia’s libraries, recreation centers, schools, sidewalks, and yards.
  • The Free Library of Philadelphia: As an active partner in the Words At Play Vocabulary Initiative, First Up advised a consortium that included the Free Library, Kimmel Center, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University, and even local barbers to narrow the “word gap” via community participation. Through movement, singing, and reading at “Play Parties,” local families discovered new ways to strengthen their children’s vocabulary through play.
  • Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse: Our popular workshop series at Smith gave regional ECE professionals the opportunity to “dive deep” into a variety of ways to connect children with nature. By bringing in the Franklin Institute, we worked with three elementary schools and surrounding preschool programs to provide joint career advising and curriculum development to their teachers, with an emphasis on building and implementing investigative science and math activities.

To partner with First Up or learn more about our active collaborations, please contact Tyrone Scott, Director of Government and External Affairs.

Developing the Workforce

A skilled workforce of early childhood educators, administrators, directors, and policy professionals is crucial to transforming the lives of our youngest learners. For more than 50 years, First Up has worked to provide Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals with the resources and training they need to be most effective, yet too often, there isn’t sufficient funding to support these services. Our national educational system is facing a stunning variety of intersecting challenges, among them:

  • Educational investment is lowest in ages birth through five, the years when the brain is growing most rapidly, and when the effects of traumatic stress can be most easily reversed.
  • High-quality ECE programs are consistent predictors of school and life success, yet only 20% of early childhood programs that are available in Philadelphia are considered high-quality.
  • In Pennsylvania, only 1 out of every 6 children aged 3 and 4 have access to publicly-funded, high-quality Pre-K.
  • With a huge demand for child care, many early childhood programs in poor neighborhoods are staffed with untrained workers who are paid minimum wages to care for our most vulnerable children at the exact time when they are most actively developing.

In collaboration with Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC) and the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) we completed a yearlong inquiry into the various bottlenecks and levers for change in improving ECE teacher recruitment, retention, and advancement. Armed with this knowledge, we’ve worked with colleagues through a Workforce Transformation Initiative to take the following actions:

  • Develop new pipelines, including a high school Child Development Associate (CDA) credentialing program created in partnership with Philadelphia Academies Inc. and Parkway West High School;
  • Launch a CDA to Associate’s Degree apprenticeship program in partnership with MELC, PHMC, and the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund;
  • Assist allies in higher education to adopt best practices to strengthen their pre-service teacher preparation;
  • Share best practices in coaching, in-service career development, and director support; and
  • Help ECE providers become effective participants in, and advocates for, such capacity building.

For more information about Workforce Development, please contact Caroline Campana, Director of Workforce and Professional Development.

Influencing Policy

As we have for the past five decades, First Up continues to develop innovative ways to influence policymakers and thought-leaders within the ongoing quest for more significant investments for Early Childhood Education by the state of Pennsylvania. We train more and more directors in presenting the true cost of providing high-quality early care and education. We advance school district partnerships, from an early grades’ emphasis on developmentally appropriate practices all the way through to preparation of high school students for work in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector.

Our goals are to ensure elected officials know and understand two keys facts, which influence all ECE policy: that learning begins at birth, and that every environment is a learning environment.

We play an active staffing role in the Southeastern PA Early Childhood Coalition, our local ECE advocacy network. We played a leading role in launching Pre-K for PA, a coalition of 10 statewide organizations that works together to expand high-quality pre-K funding. First Up was influential in advancing Mayor Jim Kenney’s vision for universal pre-K in Philadelphia, and we’ve played a significant role in the effort to mobilize support for the program, now known as PHLpreK, and establish a funding base to get it up and running.

We encourage all of our supporters to join us as Champions for Early Education by consistently communicating the importance of ECE for every child to your local and national legislators, voting for quality improvements and affordability measures in ECE, and supporting budgets that offer more young children high-quality ECE experiences.

Explore our Advocate Tool Box to find more ways to support high-quality ECE for all!