How Jennifer is working to give kids the best start possible at First 5 LA

There’s a consensus among early childhood development experts that the first five years are perhaps the most crucial when it comes to a child’s physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development. Making sure children are getting what they need in these first five years is key to setting them up for lifelong success.

Perhaps more immediately, it’s key to getting them on track for school — a key priority for our city. That’s why we decided to sit down and talk to Jennifer. She’s made it her mission in life to support kids — and parents — at this critical phase of child development.

Jennifer didn’t always have this mission. In fact, she started out working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. It slowly began to dawn on her that she was happiest working with nonprofit clients — people whose work directly reflected their values. It didn’t take long for her to leave the advertising world behind. Jennifer shifted gears, transferring her marketing and communications experience to work for nonprofits that focused on the things she truly cares about — families, children, education, and the arts.

First 5 LA

Jennifer was a new mom when she made her way to Santa Monica from New York. She was pleased to land a job working for First 5 LA, an organization devoted to advocating for children prenatal through age 5. First 5 LA aims to give kids the best start possible, so they’re ready to succeed in school by the time they reach kindergarten. First 5 LA does this by working to strengthen families, communities, policy, and systems of support across Los Angeles County.

The job resonated with her, as her daughter — a year-and-a-half-old at the time — fell directly in the target population. She could easily relate to and understand the needs of parents and children in that particular phase of life.

One thing Jennifer and First 5 LA are focused on today is helping to support a county-wide kindergarten readiness assessment. Information from this assessment will be used to inform future policies and programs that help kids enter school healthy and ready to succeed.

And they’ve brought Santa Monica in on the conversation, as the city has already been using a tool called the Early Development Instrument that helps answer questions like, what are the strengths and needs of the children in our community? How can we decrease disparities? How can we lift up all our kids so that they’re ready to thrive in kindergarten? By asking these questions — and answering them — strides can be made to support children 5 and under in the most effective ways possible.

In The Community

Jennifer’s child-centered mission extends far beyond her work at First 5 LA. She’s a member of the Santa Monica Social Services Commission, as well as a participant in her daughter’s school site council and the Santa Monica Early Childhood Task Force — a group of community members that includes parents, childcare providers, childhood advocates, and city and school district representatives. They come together monthly to talk about issues and share information related to early childhood, such as funding and access to childcare and early education.

Getting Plugged In

Jennifer emphasizes the importance of parents getting plugged in and utilizing the resources that are available. Here are some easy ways to get involved:

And join us at weare.santamonica.gov to hear about everything the city is doing to encourage kindergarten readiness.