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Inspire Circle Event “Finds the Baby” on Route 66

Erikson Institute’s first Inspire Circle event of the 2024 focused on the transformative way our Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA) helps its fellows to “find the baby” in some surprising places.

Inspire Circle events bring together donors who support Erikson with gifts of $1,000 or more annually. Attendees learn about the innovative ways Erikson impacts the early childhood field through collaboration, education, and advocacy.

History for the youngest children

On February 29 over 50 attendees enjoyed a panel discussion featuring ECLA Alumna Dr. Stacy Grundy, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, and her colleague, Dr. Gina Lathan PhD, MPH from Route History located in Springfield, Illinois. Moderator Penny Smith, director of Learning and Impact for Erikson’s Policy and Leadership program facilitated a lively conversation between Gina and Stacy about how the museum prioritizes young children and enriches their exploration of Black history.

Enhanced by virtual reality technology, museum programming immerses visitors in the lives of Black people, businesses, and events along Route 66 in the cities of Chicago, Joliet, Bloomington, Springfield, Brooklyn and East St Louis during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. A major goal of the museum’s work is to instill a sense of pride and potential in the young children and youth who visit.

“All the work we do we continue to reinforce and share information and facts about Black history, but we do it in such a way that Black history is celebrated. There’s more to our story than slavery …. we have made major contributions and … we’ve created so many blueprints that our young people really can walk into and … build on….” Gina said.

Connections enhance ECLA’s work

Erikson’s ECLA programs immerse advocates and decision makers in child development theory and practice, with an emphasis on making public policies and programming more equitable and accessible for young children. Known as “finding the baby,” ECLA fellows have used this point of view to create impact in their organizations and their communities. An Erikson video presented at the event included interviews with ECLA alums talking about the changes they have made because of their experiences as fellows.

By connecting children to their history through engaging exhibits and hands-on tasks from painting to answering phones, Stacy and Gina are building up children’s confidence and pride in themselves—foundational skills for reaching their full potential. Erikson’s influence is apparent in the work Gina and Stacy do day to day, and in the impact the museum is having in the East Springfield community, which recently received special recognition as a cultural center.

View a recording of the discussion

Learn more about ECLA and its fellowship programs

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