January 12, 2022

Building a Community of Leaders

Building a Community of Leaders

The award-winning Clayton Community Ambassador Program is a group of passionate parents, educators, staff, and members of the community, building the confidence and skills to become successful child and family advocates. Participants in this program develop knowledge around policy and advocacy, learn how to inform the policy process, and engage in advocacy opportunities. The group’s mission is to highlight and honor community leaders and voices in local, state, and federal policy while creating a more inclusive and accessible policy process that values the partnership of those most impacted.  

Formed in 2019, the Ambassador Program attributes its successful start to the Educare Maine Acceleration Grant program funded by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund. The initial funding helped Clayton staff and parent leaders work with peers and parents to establish the Ambassador Program. The program is now led by Kayla Frawley, Patty Hernandez, and Holley Murphy and continues to receive annual funding to support ongoing work. The Buffett Acceleration Grant program is a valuable partnership that provides technical assistance and peer support, making it possible to build the Ambassador Program into the success it is today. 

Colorado Center on Law and Policy recently recognized the Ambassador Program as the 2021 Community Partner Organization of the year for its efforts in building community leadership capacity. Going beyond the traditional community engagement models, the program creates a ladder-to-leadership model in which members excel in leadership skills, network with local organizations, and promote leadership development, while dignifying the policy process. 

“It’s an honor to be acknowledged for our efforts to provide space and opportunity for our community leaders to excel and grow,” says Kayla Frawley, Clayton’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy. “Our team works tirelessly to ensure each Ambassador is valued for their leadership and their contributions to their community.” 

Previously, the program consisted of only Clayton parents, however this year it has been extended to include Clayton staff. A grant from the Rose Community Foundation allowed the program to expand and offer opportunities to hire alumni parents to help run it. Ealasha Vaughner, who has been serving on the Ambassador Program for four years, was contracted as the Program Coordinator.  

This legislative session, the Ambassadors are mainly focused on growing the program to bring in new policy leaders within Early Childhood Education and elevating the voices of community members most impacted. These efforts will consist of offering training and leadership opportunities that engage in policy and advocacy tactics, networking with partners, and advocating on issues related to Early Childhood, Birth Equity, Family Economic Security, Tax Policy, Health and Mental Health Supports, and other services and supports for families. 

For those interested in joining the Ambassador Program, there are multiple ways to get involved. Upcoming opportunities include attending a meeting to learn more, signing up for the newsletter to receive information about joining next year, or participating in an advocacy event. The 11th Annual Speak Up for Kids Advocacy Day, on March 17, 2022, is a fun day with opportunities to meet policymakers and learn more about advocacy efforts. More information on registration is available on the Speak Up website

If you have any questions about the Ambassador Program, would like to attend an upcoming meeting, or sign up for the newsletter please contact Christina Walker, Clayton’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. 

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