Jumpstart’s Read for the Record: Using My Fellowship Experience to Build Partnerships

by Christa Hunter, 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate

“Imagine starting a race knowing more than half of your competitors will be given a head start. Not exactly fair, is it?”

I read those words on a brochure during my freshman year of college before submitting my application to the Jumpstart Pittsburgh program at the University of Pittsburgh. Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community members to serve preschool children in under-resourced communities through a language, literacy, and social-emotional curriculum. Jumpstart was the greatest experience for me during my time in college. I was able to spend a significant amount of time in preschool classrooms each week, learn about early childhood education in our state, and discover my passion for the field. It was an eye-opening experience and one I am truly grateful for since it set me on the career path I am today.

After graduating, I was fortunate enough to become a Jumpstart Site Manager. I truly enjoyed watching the college students I managed grow and learn. I coached and supported pre-service teachers inside and outside of the classroom every week, communicated with child care staff on a regular basis, and connected with families during events. During this past year, I was able to take on a new role at Temple University’s College of Education as the Assistant Director for Early Learning Services and Career & Student Development. I continue to work with pre-service teachers as well as support the college’s early learning initiatives. I still work closely with the Jumpstart Site Managers and do everything I can to support the work our students are doing in the field.


Last year, I participated in the OCDEL Policy Fellowship. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about OCDEL’s policies and procedures, meet leaders across the state, and develop leadership skills to help me grow as a professional. Additionally, I connected with leaders at OCDEL such as Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris who provided us with insight on the state of early learning in Pennsylvania. Being a native from Philadelphia, I was inspired by Suzann’s leadership and encouraged to continue to grow as a leader myself.

This year, we are grateful for Deputy Secretary Morris’s support of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record not just at Temple University but across the state. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record highlights the importance of high-quality early education in America by mobilizing millions of children and adults to celebrate literacy by participating in the largest shared reading experience. On October 19th, children and adults around the world will highlight the importance of children’s literacy by reading, “Quackers” by Liz Wong. In Philadelphia, we try to engage as many people in the city to participate in this national event and spread the word about the importance of high-quality early education and literacy. Community members, Temple faculty, staff, and students, Jumpstart Corps members, teachers, and children participate in our celebration every year at Temple University.



My participation in the OCDEL Fellowship provided me with the confidence to connect with leaders at the state and local level to participate in this year’s event at Temple. I have actively been seeking more opportunities to get involved in early childhood education conversations in my city to bring back to my students as they prepare for their future as educators and I am looking forward to continuing my growth and development with the skills I learned from this experience.

* To learn more about Jumpstart’s Read for the Record and how to get involved, click here: https://www.jstart.org/read-for-the-record/

** If you would like to participate in Temple University’s event on October 19th, please email jumpstart@temple.edu for more information.

Kaufmann Joins OCDEL Bureau of Early Intervention Services as EI Advisor

by Heather Kaufmann, 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate

In 2010, I began my journey in the Early Intervention field as a Service Coordinator at a local county program. My previous work experience consisted of teaching at multiple child care centers, as well as a few years in retail management. With no prior knowledge of the Early Intervention field, I felt nervous but also excited as I had always enjoyed working with children. During my time as a Service Coordinator, I learned a lot about child development and the process that families go through to obtain services and supports for their children.  I fell in love with the field and realized that there was so much more that I could be doing for these families. I was promoted to EI Coordinator in 2015 and quickly became involved in various state level meetings and committees.  One of the most exciting things, however, was being accepted into the inaugural OCDEL Policy Fellowship. I thoroughly enjoyed working directly with families, but these committees and meetings helped me to recognize that I had a desire to be part of the bigger picture, not just on the local level but at the state level.

Just  last month, I achieved my goal  and was hired as an Early Intervention Advisor with the Bureau of Early Intervention Services at OCDEL. My background knowledge from the local EI program has really prepared me to jump right into this new role. Additionally, my Fellowship experience has assisted in easing the transition. The knowledge that I acquired during the fellowship regarding how state government works, as well as OCDEL’s relationship with the policymakers has been very beneficial, even in the first few weeks on the job. One of the best examples of how I am utilizing the knowledge that I gained during the Fellowship happened during my very first week, when I was asked to join a team that was working on a data request from an outside organization. I felt prepared for the meeting because OCDEL’s data manager had spoken to  us regarding data requests; what they are, and how they are handled here at OCDEL.

My time in the OCDEL Policy Fellowship was extremely valuable in supporting my work at the local level.  I am excited to apply that knowledge to my new position with OCDEL and where my new OCDEL journey takes me.

Tolliver Named One of “Who’s Next” in Education

On July 26th, Will Tolliver, a 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate, was  recognized for his contributions to Pittsburgh’s Education Landscape.  The Incline, a Pittsburgh-based online news publication, highlighted 18 educators from around the Pittsburgh region with an array of skills.  Tolliver’s highlight is as follows:

“William B. Tolliver, Jr. is a program associate for Educational Projects at the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children aka PAEYC. He started the role in August 2016. Tolliver provides support to make grant-funded education initiatives happen and focuses on projects for children from birth to fourth grade. His nominator praised him for coordinating a program called Raising Readers, “a literacy initiative that brings books, children, as well as Zone 5 police officers, to learn and connect with one another.” He was previously the Homewood nature educator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and assistant to the director for Creek Connections. Tolliver is a board member of the Day One Project, is on the Pennsylvania Environmental Educators Capacity Leadership Team and is an alumni fellow with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning. He is a graduate of Allegheny College and lives in Shadyside.”

Since then, Tolliver has moved on from his role at PAEYC and is enjoying the opportunity to get back to his environmental education roots and passion for the outdoors.

Pittsburgh’s The Incline “Who’s Next: Education”