A Life's Work: Reimagining Early Childhood Education

For some people, the desire to help others goes beyond occasional volunteering and becomes a vocation. Izzi Greenberg (Cooke Transfer Scholar, Wesleyan 2005) has been the Executive Director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children in Connecticut for the past nine years, working on youth justice issues, childhood hunger, family economic security, and improving the early childhood education sector. She is passionate about her work organizing and advocating for children and early childcare providers statewide. Izzi says, “given what we know about early brain development, which happens before Kindergarten, and the importance of quality early childhood education, we should have better systems in place… but instead, the early childhood world fights for scraps.”

Izzi started her career in community organizing in 2001, working to improve the quality of life for low-income residents in her neighborhood. From there, her scope grew larger to include working with child-serving agencies across the county to the even larger job of advocating to improve the early childcare and education system at the state-wide level. During the pandemic, the Middlesex Coalition for Children filled an important role in bringing needed information to the early childcare sector, hosting weekly calls for hundreds of providers across the state and bringing on epidemiologists, public health experts, mental health professionals, and federal legislators to guide the community through a time of great uncertainty. Now that the urgency around disseminating COVID-19 information has slowed down, Izzi says, “the calls have morphed into an organizing space for a new campaign to reimagine the childcare system in the state. I have built trust in this community, and we are using that trust to activate parents, providers, lawmakers, and allies for a massive campaign to fix the system.”

Though she finds her work deeply rewarding, it is not without struggle. Izzi says, “I have been burnt out and everyone I work with is burnt out. But those kids need us. If one of these systems collapses, the whole thing is going to crumble.” Izzi is working to bring issues in the early childhood sector to light so that childcare providers become prioritized, recognized, and compensated as valued members of society.

In recognition of the huge impact of her work, in 2016 Izzi was asked to be the commencement speaker at one of her alma maters, Middlesex Community College. Her advice to the graduating students was:

“Don’t be afraid of a winding road. You don’t always get to choose what’s going to happen in life, but you do get to choose what you make of what has happened, and what to do next. The circuitous route can often lead to a more interesting life. On the winding road to your goals, those experiences you are picking up along the way are so formative that the actual goal itself is less important. I have had so many twists and turns along my path, and everything has been an opportunity to learn more about myself and the world.”

To learn more about Izzi’s work with the Middlesex Coalition of Children, visit their website at: www.middlesexchildren.org.