By Marlaina Simmons
Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas Early Learning Regional Coalition
Before I went to the Washington Capitol in late March, I was intimidated by the idea of acting as an advocate. It seemed scary, and like there was no way I, alone, could make a difference. But now I know that our legislators are people just like us.
This was a very exciting time to be in Olympia with the Early Start Act and the McCleary decision on all of our minds. Thrive Washington hosted the first ever coalition advocacy day for the 10 Early Learning Regional Coalitions across the state. These 10 coalitions came together for one day to advocate for our earliest learners and their families.
Thrive did an incredible job arranging all of the meetings for us so we were able to focus on what we were there to do: advocate! Our coalition met with Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island); Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam); Beverly, assistant to Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch); and Rep. Dan Griffey (R-Allyn). We were even able to sit in on a bill hearing and have a roundtable discussion with Department of Early Learning Director Dr. Bette Hyde and RaShelle Davis, early learning policy adviser to Gov. Jay Inslee!
Our coalition had a great team with broad representation of our region, including
- Marlaina Simmons, program manager for the coalition
- Lonnell Kyle, kindergarten teacher and WaKIDS participant
- Janet Thompson, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) teacher
- Donna Moon, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) director
- Rosemary Newday, Education-Disabilities Manager for the Lower Elwha Head Start/Early Head Start programs
Our team came from Forks, Port Angeles, Bremerton and Port Orchard, with differing perspectives of living in urban, rural and tribal communities.
It was amazing to feel heard and to be thanked for the work that we do. I particularly enjoyed meeting with my home district’s senator, Sen. Rolfes. I was able to take a moment, take off my professional hat and speak as a parent. I shared details about my experience living in that community, and I advocated for what is most important to me. My senator genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say and even expressed interest in discussing it further in the future. That alone made the trip a success in my book!
Thanks to Thrive Washington for planning this extremely successful event.