In March 2017, early care and education providers, educators and advocates attended Illinois Action for Children’s Spring Into Action Conference.   Attendees participated in policy-oriented workshops, a networking reception and a visit to the state capitol.  For those stakeholders that missed the conference, you can access and download materials here.

We asked the Little Village Education Collaborative coordinator to share her reflection of the Spring Into Action Conference.

Jessica Cañas, College Pipeline Specialist, Little Village Education Collaborative, Enlace Chicago

The Spring Into Action 2017 conference was the first I have attended. Initially, I was hesitant to attend because I work primarily on college access and success through the Little Village Education Collaborative at Enlace Chicago, not early childhood education. However, when I learned that the conference would be focusing on a Cradle to Career collaboration, I was curious to see how the connection would be made. I have been working for over a year now on a College Pipeline Project, which seeks to facilitate conversations on how to better support Little Village students in accessing college. We see the importance of including early childhood, Chicago Public School counselors and parents in the college access conversation and have been working towards this. I was looking forward to seeing how the conversation would unfold from the early childhood education end.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Stephanie Bernoteit, did a great job drawing the connection between early childhood education and higher education. The greatest takeaway I had from her address was actually very simple; students go through transitions throughout their education and confront similar challenges and opportunities at each transition. She went on to say that we need to look at the entire pipeline from cradle to career in order to understand the entire picture and see the transitions where our students need the most support. This was a great reminder that although I focus on the transition from high school to higher education, I need to step back and see the entire pipeline. In order for students to get to the point between high school and college, they need to have a strong foundation in K-8 and early childhood.

The conference continued with a great selection of workshops to attend, which made it difficult to choose. The workshop I most enjoyed was “Parents as Advocates—Partnering to Influence Change.” It was phenomenal in providing the framework to how and why it is so important to engage entire families in the education of their children. I really appreciated how the facilitators, Jill Bradley and Latisha Smith, focused on the importance of including parent voices and provided a practical and applicable 7 step process to assure that any organization is truly engaging parents. I look forward to getting a copy of this 7 step framework to utilize at Enlace Chicago with the parents I work with and strengthening the conversation we are currently having in our Education Department around parent engagement. It was motivating to see the overlap in the importance of parent engagement at the early childhood level and high school to post-secondary level as well. I look forward to Spring Into Action 2018!

To learn more about Enlace Chicago’s cradle-to-career network, visit


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