Cross-sector Group of Illinois Leaders Selected for 2019 Cohort of McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows

Composed of local and state officials, high-ranking law enforcement, judges, top educators as well as community and faith-based leaders, the 2019 cohort of the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows (MFEF) program will begin a two-month executive education series at Erikson Institute on August 7, 2019. A program of Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA), the MFEF program brings together influential leaders across multiple sectors to participate in a collective and dynamic learning experience that provides a comprehensive understanding of the long-term benefits of investing in early child development.

“As the state works to increase investments in early childhood, the executive fellowship program continues to serve as an essential grounding for leaders who advocate for and make policy decisions on behalf of children and families,” said Geoffrey Nagle, PhD, President and CEO of Erikson Institute.

Heading into its third year, the MFEF program has already yielded results as alumni continue to be catalysts for change throughout Illinois. Equipped with the latest early childhood research, last year’s fellows applied their learning by starting a new initiative designed to encourage men of color to enter the field of education, sponsoring bills that increase access to quality care and informing newly-elected legislators about the benefits of quality early childhood education as it relates to crime prevention and community safety.

The program’s systems approach informs decision-makers—who can influence policy, advocate for public resources, and shape the educational experience of children—about the return on investment in quality early childhood programs and services, which can reduce the need for costly interventions later in life.

“I thought I had a decent understanding of the importance of early childhood development but was blown away by the information that was provided. I was also incredibly moved by my experience in visiting an early learning center. Actually, seeing the center first-hand and having the ability to interact with the staff and children provided me with a completely different outlook,” said 2018 fellow and Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim.

As part of the learning experience, fellows participate in a day of service, shadowing and doing the work of early childhood professionals at both home- and center-based early care and educational programs in Chicago. The fellows read to children, serve meals, engage with families, lead learning activities, and talk with staff to gain a first-hand perspective on resources, funding, staff compensation, and family needs.

“Service Day is just one of the ways that we bridge theory and practice. What makes this program unique is that it does transform many leaders’ perceptions of early childhood, and equips them to apply this newly-acquired knowledge in their everyday work,” said Penny Smith, associate director of Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy, which houses the MFEF program.

The program cultivates a forward-looking space that allows fellows to connect the value of early childhood investment as a strategy for addressing complex social issues. Additionally, national experts present on critical issues such as the science of brain development; the connection between adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress; components of the Illinois early childhood system; demographic considerations of the Illinois child population; and the implications of recruiting and retaining a qualified and diverse early childhood workforce.

ECLA programs reach a broad range of leaders within the field of early childhood as well as those working outside the field who influence sectors that impact children and families. To date, 108 individuals have successfully completed ECLA programs designed to inform and connect leaders to a growing network of early childhood advocates who can identify opportunities to leverage investments, improve the quality of services and programs, and influence meaningful change.

The 2019 McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows (Read Bios

Michael Abello, Chief of Early Childhood Education, Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

Kimberlie Boone, Assistant Public Guardian, Cook County Office of the Public Guardian

Dr. Susan Buchanan, Attending Physician and Clinical Associate Professor, UIC Health and Hospital System and School of Public Health

Superintendent Margaret Clauson, Skokie-Morton Grove School District 69

Gina Crumble, Supervisor, Child Protection Division, Cook County State’s Attorney Office

Alderwoman Cicely Fleming, City of Evanston 9th Ward

Jamie Freedlund, School Board Member, Bourbonnais Elementary District 53

Gina Harris, Director, National Education Association

Pastor Chris Harris, Founder and CEO, Bright Star Community Outreach

Christina Herzog, Program Director, Crown Family Philanthropies

Claudia Kasten, Chief of the Juvenile Trial Division, Lake County State’s Attorney Office

Dan Kotowski, President and CEO, ChildServ

Evan M. Krauss, Director, East Side Aligned, United Way of Greater St. Louis

Representative Aaron Ortiz, Illinois State House of Representatives, 1st District

Superintendent John Price, North Chicago District 187

Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, Executive Director of Early College and Career, Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

Representative Delia Ramirez, Illinois State House of Representatives, 4th District

Cheri Richardson, Executive Director, Gorter Family Foundation

Jose Rico, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, United Way of Metro Chicago

State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, Kankakee County

Assistant State’s Attorney Sara Spivy, Cook County State’s Attorney Office

Gina Strafford-Ahmed, Administrator Intake and Referral, DuPage County Dept. of Community Services

Shelley Taylor, Senior Director, Programs and Services, Consortium for Educational Change (CED)

Mayor Katrina Thompson, Village of Broadview