Meet our team of dreamers and doers.
As a team, our core strength is our dynamic, creative, and dedicated team of early childhood experts – nearly 50 dedicated employees serve all 83 counties throughout Michigan. Click on an ECIC team member’s name and photo to view his/her biography and area of expertise.
Early Childhood Investment Corporation
Data System Specialist
Desmond AcquahDesmond Acquah joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in October 2020 as the Data System Coordinator. His current work revolves around the maintenance of the Quality Rating and Improvement System for Great Start to Quality. He specializes in quality assurance and database management. Mr. Acquah has experience working with querying database, networking, cyber security and design applications across all platforms and operating systems.
Mr. Acquah received his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology specializing in both networking and cyber security from the University of Ghana and currently holds five technical certifications.
Program Manager for Capacity-Building Services
Brooke Albert serves the vision and mission of ECIC as the Lead Consultant on the Equity & Leadership team. In this role, she oversees a team of consultants/trainers and focuses on strategic partnership and establishing equity-centered practices through capacity-building.
Ms. Albert has an extensive background serving children and families in a variety of settings including licensed childcare, faith-based programs, home visiting, and public education. She has a unique blend of knowledge and experience in strengthening systems through a focus on relationships, healing, and connection. She is passionate about honoring and upholding human dignity, centering the voices of those most impacted by decisions, and working collaboratively to ensure that communities are places where every child and family can truly thrive.
Ms. Albert is endorsed by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (IMH-E®). She received her Master of Arts degree in Crisis Response and Trauma Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University and is a certified trainer of Restorative Practices (IIRP), the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework (Children’s Trust Fund Alliance), and HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences National Resource Center).
Technical Assistance Consultant
Program Manager, Innovation Grants
Andrea Ayotte joined the ECIC team in September 2023 as the Program Manager – Innovation Grants.
For most of her life, Andrea has had the privilege to be in roles and spaces that serve children. Prior to joining ECIC, Andrea was the Assistant Program Director of a non-profit, private preschool in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While wearing many hats throughout her career, Andrea has been responsible for grants administration, proposal development, program management, and strategic planning, all with the goal of elevating children and early childhood providers.
Andrea has a Master of Science in Early Childhood: Inclusive Education from Portland State University, with a focus on children with special rights and constructivist early childhood education. She also has a Master of Educational Leadership: Organizational and Global Leadership from Western Michigan University where she focused on the administration of youth-serving organizations. Andrea brings to ECIC a deep-seated belief in anti-bias education, a passion for uplifting early childhood providers, and a love for all things early-childhood.
As a parent of two young children, Andrea understands deeply how important it is to elevate issues affecting young children and their families. An avid gardener and potter, Andrea also values getting her hands dirty and using that to connect with others.
Chief Executive Officer
Dawne Bell has over nineteen years of experience as a nonprofit leader and professional fundraiser, specializing on issues affecting women and children such as early care and education, domestic violence, health care, housing and homelessness and workforce development. Before joining ECIC, Dawne most recently served as a foundation executive in Southern Arizona and was previously the chief fundraiser for the largest homeless health care agency in New York City, NY. She also formerly served as the executive director of a statewide nonprofit pediatric hospital foundation for children with special health care needs in New Mexico and led the fundraising and advocacy departments at award-winning health care and social service nonprofit organizations in New Mexico and Michigan.
Dawne has served on numerous boards, including the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Association of Fundraising Professionals and Women’s Prison Association. She is a frequent speaker to nonprofit organizations, facilitating training workshops on nonpartisan advocacy, fundraising and board engagement. Dawne is a member of AFP and Rotary and was named “40 Under 40” by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Daily Star.
Dawne has an MPA from Grand Valley State University and a BA from Kalamazoo College. Alumnus of the Fundraising School at Indiana University-Purdue University, she has raised over $40 million for numerous causes and held the CFRE credential since 2009.
Dawne is a native Michigander, happy to be back in her home state.
Senior Director, Child Care Innovation Fund
Joan Blough joins ECIC to serve as Senior Director for the Child Care Innovation Fund. Most recently, Joan was the Community Systems Director for the Early Learning Division within the State of Oregon, where she helped lead implementation of the country’s largest investment in early care and education—a $400 million investment that included a strong focus on equity and child care innovation. Her portfolio included: the professional learning system for Oregon’s early care and education workforce; the Child Care Resource and Referral system, inclusive of 13 regional entities and 211-Find Child Care; the quality recognition and improvement system for early care and education programs and providers, known as Spark; and the statewide network of sixteen Early Learning Hubs. Prior to her role in Oregon, Joan was the Principal at Change by Design and she also previously served as the Senior Vice-President for Early Childhood at ECIC. Joan holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.S.W. from Western Michigan University.
Lisa Bremer became a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January 2017. Her current work is focused on conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools for the Great Start to Quality rating system.
Ms. Bremer has worked in the education field on and off for the past 22 years.
Ms. Bremer received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education specializing in Early Childhood Endorsement from Western Michigan University, graduating with honors. Ms. Bremer is a certified reliable HighScope assessor.
Director of Communications
Jaren Brown brings over a decade of experience in marketing and communications, with a focus on strategic communications, media relations, and crisis communications. Her professional experience encompasses working with children and families, integrated health services, mental health support, and public health initiatives.
Before joining ECIC, Jaren held a volunteer position as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Claim Your Potential, a non-profit organization located in Washington, DC with a mission to empower women. In addition, she worked as the Communications Project Manager for DPSCD, the largest public-school district in Michigan. In this role, Jaren successfully revised the crisis communications plan after the unfortunate Oxford school shooting incident in 2021, with a particular emphasis on gun safety.
Jaren also worked in Communications for the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWHIN). During her tenure, she played a key role in rebranding the organization and developing the strategic communications plan for a pilot program in partnership with the Detroit Police Department and City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department. The goal was to
train Detroit police officers to effectively handle violent encounters with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, diverting them from jail and connecting them with housing and mental health resources.
Jaren holds a Masters degree in Public Relations from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. She was recognized as the Advanced Achiever and named Valedictorian for her outstanding work on her inaugural PR initiative, Kicks for Count Day. Through successful partnerships, the campaign garnered a $100,000 sponsorship from Red Bull and resulted in over 17,000 pairs of sneakers being donated to Detroit high school seniors in need
Rahni Bryant joined ECIC in June 2022.
Mrs. Bryant has worked in the education field for almost two decades. As an Early Childhood educator, she has worked many years in preparing students for educational success using best practices. She has gained experience in creating quality programs for a diverse group of learning needs.
Mrs. Bryant received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Michigan University.
Sable Carter brings a strong passion for the safety and well-being of the children in the community and has 12 years of experience in the early childhood education field. During her time working in childcare, she has had the privilege of working with children ranging from infants all the way up to school age and has taught in both private and public preschool settings as well as government funded programs such as Early Head Start, Head Start and Great Start to Readiness Program. She spent the last 3 years as a Program Director running the day-to-day operations of a privately owned child care and learning facility.
Sable has also worked with the Lansing School District as a Student Support Coordinator, collaborating with community partners and bringing in resources for the children at a local elementary school.
Sable graduated from Michigan State University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Family Community Services with a Youth and Childhood Development Concentration.
In her free time, she enjoy rooting on the Michigan State Spartan football team and spending time with her husband and her son.
Cristina Chinavare joined ECIC in 2021 and is currently an Innovation Associate for the Child Care Innovation Fund. Previously, Cristina served as a Validator with Great Start to Quality.
Cristina has worked in the field of early childhood for over 10 years serving children from birth to 5 years old. Through her work, she has gained knowledge and experience in early childhood best practice, family engagement and program management. As a parent, and past administrator and educator, Cristina understands the importance of providing high quality care for children and their families, as well as advocating for educators in the field. She has a passion for helping children and their families receive affordable, high quality care, as early as possible. Her passion also includes promoting for higher wages and affordable access to continued education, for all educators. Her intentions for her work include actively collaborating with others to implement new innovations, processes, and equitable approaches to ensure all children, families and educators thrive.
Cristina received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Eastern Michigan University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education, with a focus in leadership and administration, from the University of Michigan.
Innovation and Policy Associate
Kelly Christman is the Project Manager for the Child Care Innovation Fund and previously served as a Great Start to Quality Validator in 2019 where she focuses on the integrity of the Great Start to Quality rating system by reviewing the evidence submitted as a part of the Self-Assessment Survey.
Ms. Christmas joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2013 as an Assessment Specialist and later an Early Childhood Specialist working with the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant.
Ms. Christman received her Bachelor of Science in Family and Community Services specializing in Early Childhood Education and her Master’s in Child Development from Michigan State University. Ms. Christman is a certified reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.
Project Manager, Policy and Innovation
Misti Conley-Rogers joined the ECIC team in March of 2022, as a Project Manager within the Policy and Innovation group.
Misti has dedicated the majority of her career to addressing the needs of children and families experiencing the child welfare system. Most recently, Misti worked to address performance and quality improvement within the Kent County foster care system. She was responsible for monitoring and auditing for contract compliance, analyzing and addressing organizational performance data, facilitating formal performance reviews, building performance improvement plans with network providers, managing innovative projects addressing gaps in the child welfare system, and collaborating with child welfare professionals across Kent county to develop solutions and advance child welfare.
Misti graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work from Central Michigan University and her Master of Social Work from Grand Valley State University.
Program Manager, Detroit Policy Initiatives
Terrell Couch joins the Early Childhood Investment Corporation during September 2023 as the Program
Manager of Detroit Policy Initiatives. He moves from Boise, Idaho where he has spent the past few years
immersed in early childhood policy on behalf of children across the Gem State.
Born and raised in Michigan, Terrell has dedicated much of his life to social justice and bringing all
stakeholders to the table. Since his day at Grand Valley State University, there has been a passion for
supporting the place that raised him. Following several years traveling the country, Terrell hopes to
continue elevating policies that help young children thrive and reform systems. During the earlier parts
of the pandemic, Terrell also facilitated a podcast title “Dangerously Likely” that best details who he is
and how he views this country’s promise for an “American Dream.”
Senior Implementation Consultant
Kortney joined ECIC in May 2023 as the Senior Implementation Consultant for the Child Care Innovation Fund.
Kortney has worked in Detroit’s social impact sector for over six years. She is energized by innovative, collaborative work to solve big problems. A majority of her career has been dedicated to advancing outcomes for children and families in the early childhood sector, through family-centered evaluation and strategic project management. Though, most recently, she built and managed a scholarship program for young women in Detroit focused on financial wellness.
Kortney holds a Bachelor’s degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a Master’s in Program Evaluation. This allows her to integrate evaluation and feminist theory to build participatory methods and find equitable solutions.
When not working, you will most likely find Kortney enjoying the lake with her mini golden-doodle, Rue, and soon to be husband, Devon.
Data Systems Manager
Dana Frederick became our Data Systems Manager in January 2019. Her focus is on the maintenance of the quality rating and improvement system, as well as, ensuring an effective data governance framework for data systems.
Ms. Frederick specialized in early childhood reporting and visualization, as well as, website quality assurance during her time as a senior analyst with the Center for Education Performance and Information’s Michigan School Data portal.
Ms. Frederick received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science specializing in Sociology from Ohio Northern University and received her Master of Public Administration from Michigan State University.
Project Manager, Infant/Toddler Pilot Grant
Laura Fuller joins ECIC as Project Manager for the Infants and Toddlers Pilot Grant after spending the last two years as a contractor working on the Child Care Stabilization Grants. Professionally, she has worked in Higher Education for most of her career as a college professor and administrator. She also serves on the Board for Voices of Color, a nonprofit that focuses on equity issues in domestic violence.
She lives in Kalamazoo, MI with her husband and their two dogs. For fun, she enjoys driving along the Lake Michigan coastline, visiting state parks, and hitting up Art and Natural History museums.
Laura has a BA in Gender Studies and a MS in Sociology/Community Development, both from Ohio State University. She is currently enrolled at United Theological Seminary where she is pursuing a Doctorate in Social Transformation.
Charlotte Galgoci joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in March of 2022 as Program Coordinator. Charlotte brings over 25 years of experience in the field of early childhood, working in a variety of roles that have been driven by a passion for building relationships and supporting the family/provider connection. Charlotte’s experience includes creating and facilitating trainings for early childhood educators and families, program support for the Child Development and Learning Laboratory at Central Michigan University and facilitating ECE courses at a higher education level. Charlotte has also completed Individual Level Training and the Touchpoints Parenting Program facilitator training through the Brazelton Touchpoints Center and is a certified Pre-K CLASS Observer through Teachstone.
Charlotte achieved a BAA in Child Development with a focus in Early Childhood and also a MA degree in Education with a focus on Training and Development from Central Michigan University.
Senior Director of Equity and Leadership
Alicia Guevara Warren
Alicia Guevara Warren joined the Early Childhood Investment corporation in June 2020 as the Director of Statewide Policy Initiatives. Ms. Warren brings an extensive background advocating for improved outcomes for children and families through her work in the nonprofit sector.
Prior to her arrival at ECIC, Ms. Warren served as the director of the Kinship Care Resource Center at the Michigan State University School of Social Work and she worked for the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) as the director of the Kids Count project. Additionally, as Democratic Central Staff for the Michigan House of Representatives, she served as the lead analyst on issues affecting children, families, and seniors, along with immigration, women’s health, and regulatory reform.
Ms. Warren earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Michigan and Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin.
Tracie Guild is currently a Validator at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation where she focuses on the integrity of Great Start to Quality by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs in accordance with the Quality Indicators. Tracie joined ECIC in 2017 supporting the Great Start to Quality Validation work. Prior to joining, she also worked with children and families in settings including child care centers, summer camps, community youth sports programs, and before and after school programs.
As a parent and past educator, Tracie has a passion for helping all of Michigan’s children and families by advocating for their need to have accessible resources in order to thrive. Her intentions for her work include supporting programs to provide families with affordable, equitable and quality care for children where they can build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and growth.
Tracie received her Bachelor of Science in Family Community Services from Michigan State University.
Junneel Hirmiz joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in October 2022 as the Administrative Coordinator. In this role, she works with the operations team to handle administrative duties and coordinate general administration within the organization. She is responsible for providing various support functions for the company and its employees.
Junneel earned her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Psychology specializing in neurodegenerative diseases at Central Michigan University.
Junneel’s mission is to highlight the importance of early childhood development and racial equity.
Kristen Howard joined the ECIC team as the Assessment Manager in August 2021. In this role, she provides oversight and leadership for the implementation of the Great Start to Quality Assessment Process.
Ms. Howard has been working in the early childhood field for over 20 years. She is dedicated early childhood professional who recently was the Executive Director at Adrian Community Preschool where she also served as the lead GSRP teacher. Through her work and educational background, Ms. Howard has become passionate in the area of quality in early childhood programs.
Ms. Howard received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Michigan State University.
Consultant/Trainer, Equity & Leadership
Jacob Pinney-Johnson joined the ECIC team as Consultant and Trainer in Equity and Leadership in June 2022. His role supports the work of the National Center for Family and Parent Leadership.
Jacob’s work experience includes a commitment to health & wellness, youth development, family & parent support, economic & criminal justice reform, racial equity & advocacy work. Jacob has experience in parent leadership and support through his work in helping to establish Kalamazoo’s County’s 4Dad Fatherhood program, and engaging as an active member of the Fatherhood Network of Kalamazoo. As father of two, Jacob has a drive and dedication to being a part of the success and upliftment of his community. “My hope is to end oppression in all forms while helping to build new systems centered around equity and love. I hope that my children and future generations can experience health, wellness and quality of life.”
Pinney-Johnson is a 4th-generation Kalamazoo, MI resident, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work with a Minor in Holistic Health.
Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy
Sacha Klein joined the Early Childhood Investment corporation in August 2023 as the Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy. Dr. Klein brings an extensive background advocating for accessible services and improved outcomes for children and families over the course of a 28-year career in child and family services, policy, and research. She joins ECIC from Michigan State University’s School of Social Work, where she taught social policy, advocacy practice, and child welfare courses; founded the Advocacy Scholars program for social work students pursuing careers in public policy; and conducted multiple state and federally funded early childhood and child welfare research projects.
Before relocating to Michigan, Dr. Klein was a Society for Research in Child Development Policy Fellow with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, where she led a joint Office of Head Start – Office of Child Abuse Prevention task force focused on increasing abused and neglected children’s access to high quality early care and education programs, and helped develop evidence standards for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Dr. Klein also was the Policy Director for First 5 LA, Los Angeles County’s quasi-governmental agency for improving outcomes for children birth through age 5, and the Child Welfare Policy Director of the Association of Community Human Service Agencies, a nonprofit trade association.
She is the author of multiple articles on child and family policy and practice issues, including several addressing the early care and educational experiences of children in the child welfare system. Dr. Klein holds a M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s School of Public Affairs, with a specialization in child welfare policy.
Amanda Klomparens-Bailey joined Early Childhood Investment Corporation in July 2023 as a Contracted Program Coordinator. She brings a background in both for-profit and non-profit sectors in marketing, communications, coordinating program logistics, accounting, and beyond!
As a Program Coordinator, she will support the implementation of ECIC’s programs, most specifically the Great Start to Quality, License Exempt Provider project, Family & Parent Leadership and the Child Care Supply Building – Education and Training/Apprenticeship grant. She supports directors and team members with the operational aspects of these programs, tracking grant-funded activities, supporting profess reporting, and various programmatic coordination responsibilities.
Amanda earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing at Davenport University. She lives in Holland, MI with her husband and two daughters. Her mission is to live in a world where everyone has access to high-quality child care.
Program Compliance Officer
Kelly Kreider is our Program Compliance Officer. In this role, Ms. Kreider builds capacity and strengthens processes for meeting the multitude of compliance related priorities across the organization including reporting, contracts, and budgeting.
Ms. Kreider began her career as a Head Start teacher and has since held a variety of positions in the early childhood field with a focus on supporting teachers, caregivers, and consultants to improve quality. Ms. Kreider has served on the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Governing Board in the roles of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Affiliate Representative. She has held several leadership roles with ECIC since 2012.
Ms. Kreider received her Bachelor of Science in Child Development with minors in Psychology and Recreation from Central Michigan University. Ms. Kreider also received her Master of Education specializing in Early Childhood from Grand Valley State University.
Nicole Kretzschmer is currently a Validator at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation where she focuses on the integrity of Great Start to Quality by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs in accordance with the Quality Indicators. Nicole joined ECIC in 2015 and has supported the Great Start to Quality Validation and Assessment work since 2013. She has also worked with children and families in settings including family child care, child care centers, faith-based centers, summer camps, and Head Start.
Nicole has a passion for both supporting programs to understand why providing quality child care is important and anchoring equity and inclusion in her work. Her intentions for her work include listening to diverse perspectives to gain understanding, identifying and mitigating her biases, and engaging with programs as they continue on their path to providing quality child care.
Nicole received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Great Lakes Christian College.
Candice Lewis is currently a Validator at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) where she focuses on the integrity of Great Start to Quality by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs in accordance with the Quality Indicators. Candice joined ECIC in 2015 and has supported the Great Start to Quality Validation and Assessment work since 2013. She has worked in the field of early childhood for over 20 years serving children ages 0-12 years in multiple settings and worked in an at-risk group home for youth serving ages 13-18 years.
Candice is passionate about creating an accessible and equitable environment where information is communicated in multiple ways to meet the different learning styles of families and those who serve in the Early Childhood field. Her intentions for her work include advocating for and educating on the importance of creating accessible materials and presenting them in diverse ways to ensure the information communicated is understood by the intended audiences.
Candice received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Brigham Young University, Provo.
License-Exempt Provider Coach
Rusel has more than 15 years working in the community. She has worked with Wayne County Department of Health, Human, and Veteran Services as a Nutritionist and public health community coordinator. She worked alongside numerous agencies to assist with community initiatives. As a community nutritionist in the health department, her work consisted in identification and assessment of nutrition problems in the community as well as the design, implementation and evaluation of intervention programs. She provided individual assessment and counseling support for breastfeeding moms, pregnant, and postpartum women, infants and children and aided in helping improve birth outcomes and early childhood health. Her passion is health equity and education for all.
Rusel received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Madonna University. Also, she holds a certificate with the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance and she is Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC).
Mariah McClain joins Early Childhood Investment Corporation as the Communications Coordinator. She currently works to support Early Childhood Investment Corporation’s branding and messaging efforts.
Ms. McClain brings over nine years of experience specializing in communications and marketing for local, national, and international nonprofit organizations.
Before joining ECIC, Ms. McClain most recently served as Communications and Events Specialist for Milk Means More, managing their social media and engaging with youth across the state to share nutrition education. She also has experience developing the first communications plan for the Bay Area Black Worker Center and National Black Worker Center Project and served as Communications Consultant with the PR firm McKinney & Associates. Through her work at McKinney & Associates, Ms. McClain provided branding assistance and media engagement support for clients such as Human Rights Watch, Paris Noire, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Black Voters Matter.
Ms. McClain received a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications with an Area of Emphasis in Political Science from Hampton University.
Senior Strategist, Infant/Toddler Pilot Grant
Maria Montoya joins ECIC as Senior Strategist, supporting the Infant Toddler Child Care Pilot.
During the last ten years, Mrs. Montoya worked in early childhood education and K-12 systems to improve access, equity, and transparency for families and communities. Here in Michigan, she’s worked as a consultant and project coordinator to lead coordinated enrollment and eligibility projects in Genesee and Wayne counties. Previously, Mrs. Montoya served as an educational leader and administrator within the city, charter school and district teams, and the first half of her career she worked as a features reporter covering children, families and schools for local and national media outlets.
Mrs. Montoya holds a bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Florida and M. Ed in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University.
Amy Moreno joined the Great Start to Quality Assessment Team in March of 2023 with over 25 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Education. She has taught in both public and private school settings along with licensed childcare facilities throughout the state of Michigan.
Mrs. Moreno has an extensive background in volunteering to help bring multiple forms of Fine Arts and Movement to children and families in the community. Working to support all children and their families secure a proper start in education and self worth is not only a passion for Mrs. Moreno, but a true mission.
In addition, Mrs. Moreno received her Bachelor of Science in Education, Fine Arts, and Language Arts with an Early Childhood Endorsement from the University of Michigan-Flint where she graduated with Honors. She also holds several Literacy Readiness Certificates in the State of Michigan. In her free time, Mrs. Moreno enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, and cheering on the Michigan Wolverines!
Melissa Mosley is currently the Validation Manager at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. She focuses on the integrity of Great Start to Quality by providing oversight and leadership for implementing the Great Start to Quality Validation Process. Melissa joined ECIC in 2016 as a Validator and has been the Validation Manager since 2018. She has also worked with children and families in settings including a NAEYC-accredited center, a child care center, and before and after school programs.
With a passion for both quality and equity in early childhood, Melissa’s passions for her work include centering equity and inclusion in her work to increase outcomes for marginalized communities, address disparities, and support belonging. Her intentions for her work include ensuring diverse perspectives are included and heard, identifying and mitigating her biases, and committing to helping all children and families thrive in Michigan.
Melissa received her Bachelor of Applied Arts in Child Development and her Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Central Michigan University.
TaShanna Norrell joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in January of 2017. Her current work is focused on conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools.
Ms. Norrell has worked in the education field for the past fifteen years in various roles which included teaching, training, and mentoring.
Ms. Norrell received her Bachelor of Art’s in Education, specializing in Early Childhood from Ashford University and her Master’s in Education specializing in Early Childhood and Educating Adults from Walden University.
Hayley Norris became a Great Start to Quality Assessor in January 2013. Her current work is focused on conducting on-site observations based on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools for the Great Start to Quality rating system.
Ms. Norris has worked in the early childhood field for seventeen years. Through her work, she has gained experience in best practices in teaching, assessment of programs, and providing resources to improve the quality of one’s program.
Ms. Norris received a Bachelor of Science in Early Education specializing in Early Childhood from Western Michigan Unviersity. Ms. Norris is a certified reliable HighScope Program Quality Assessment tools assessor.
License-Exempt Provider Coach
Alaina joined ECIC in March of 2023 as a License-Exempt Provider Coach.
She brings 20 years of experience working with children and families in the education, caregiving, and advocacy fields. Supporting children and helping to create safe spaces for them to learn and grow is one of her greatest joys.
Alaina has held a richly diversified series of positions in various child-centric roles, including elementary school Title 1 teaching staff, Red Cross certified lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor (WSI), seasonal camp senior staff unit head & area director, learning coach for a multi-age “pod” classroom during the height of the pandemic, and most recently as a forensic interviewer & coordinator of services at the local child advocacy center. She is trained in conducting forensic interviews through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan (PAAM).
O’Brien earned her Bachelor of Science from Northern Michigan University, and as a fervent lifelong learner, has gone on to complete several additional hours of post-baccalaureate studies, focusing on psychology, biology, and human development.
Alan Oman recently retired as Executive Director of Early Childhood Programs for Washtenaw Intermediate School District. At WISD, Alan was responsible for establishing the early childhood department and developing a team of over 50 professional staff. Prior to joining WISD, he launched the early childhood department at Midland County ESA. During his ISD career, Alan provided leadership for most major state and federal early childhood programs including, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), Head Start and Early Head Start, Early On, Great Start Collaboratives and Parent Coalitions, and a Great Start to Quality Resource Center.
Before his career in public education, Alan had over 22 years’ experience with community based non-profits. While Executive Director of North Midland Family Center, he led the agency through the funding, design, and construction of a new facility that included licensed childcare, school-age care, and GSRP classrooms. In 2005, he was awarded the Charles J. Strosacker Award for his leadership at North Midland Family Center.
Alan was born in Salford in northern England, resulting in his life long passion for Manchester United Football Club. As a child, Alan moved with his family to Sarnia in Canada where he developed his love for hiking, canoeing, and being outdoors.
Alan is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario and has over 35 years of leadership experience with human service and educational organizations. He is a graduate of the Leadership Midland Class of 1997. He has served on the Board of Directors of numerous human service agencies and organizations including: the Michigan 4C Association, the Midland Center for Accessible Health Care, the Helping Hands Dental Center, the Michigan Head Start Association, and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators’ (MAISA) Early Childhood Administrators’ Network (ECAN) Executive Committee.
Throughout his career, Alan has always been highly engaged in state-level advocacy efforts for families and a champion for social justice issues impacting the most vulnerable children, especially those in poverty, with disabilities, and children of color.
Director of Systems
Christy Opsommer became our Director of Systems in October 2016. In this role, she provides leadership and oversight for the assessment, validation and technology systems of Great Start to Quality.
Ms. Opsommer has experience educating children and mentoring early childhood educators, building effective, collaborative partnerships, and creating systems and resources for quality improvement. Ms. Opsommer previously held the Manager of Quality Improvement role at Learning Care Group.
Ms. Opsommer received her Bachelor of Science in Family Community Services specializing in Early Childhood Education from Michigan State University.
Allyson Page is currently a Validator at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation where she focuses on the integrity of Great Start to Quality by reviewing the evidence submitted by programs in accordance with the Quality Indicators. Allyson joined ECIC in 2017 supporting the Great Start to Quality Assessment work. Prior to joining, Allyson had worked in the education field for more than ten years. Through her work, she has gained knowledge and experience in best teaching practices, assessment, and collaboration.
As a parent and past educator, Allyson has a passion for helping all of Michigan’s children and families by advocating for their social, emotional, and physical well-being. Allyson’s intentions for her work include supporting programs to provide families with equitable and quality care for children where they can build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and growth.
Allyson received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Grand Valley State University and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Northern Michigan University.
License-Exempt Provider Project Manager
Chandrika Payton joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in November 2020 as the License Provider Project Supervisor. In this role, Chandrika provides leadership and oversight for the implementation of the License Exempt Provider Project.
Ms. Payton is a devoted early childhood professional who has an extensive background in supporting young children through system building and providing and sustaining high-quality care and service through collaboration with various stakeholders.
Ms. Payton brings tremendous experience working with people from a variety of backgrounds, cultivating relationships, community engagement, facilitation, and local and state grant management.
Ms. Payton received her Bachelor of Science in Counseling from Rochester University.
Program Coordinator, Infant/Toddler Pilot Grant
Reva Richardson joined ECIC in October 2023 as Program Coordinator for the Infants and Toddlers Pilot Grant. In this role, she supports not only the implementation of this program but also helps maintain communication with internal and external constituents and assists with special projects as needed. She has many years of experience with nonprofits and programs for children, having spent countless hours organizing events and activities to help bring the community together.
Reva’s family includes her husband, three adult children, and their two Shi-Poo dogs. Having lived in the mid-Michigan area her whole life, Reva loves spending time with her whole family, creating Pure Michigan adventures around the state when they can all come together.
Reva earned a Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services, with a Family Focus from Siena Heights University, and has an Associate Degree in Child Development from Lansing Community College.
Technical Assistance Consultant/CLASS Trainer
Jennifer Rountree is a Technical Assistance Consultant and CLASS Certified Trainer for the Training and Technical Assistance Center. In this role, she provides consultation, training and technical assistance support to state agencies, organizations and communities across the state, and training on the CLASS assessment tool.
Prior to her current role, Ms. Rountree has served as our Great Start to Quality Coordinator in supporting Great Start to Quality team in implementing, monitoring, and reporting the work of Michigan’s quality rating and improvement system. Ms. Rountree has also been a Technical Assistance Specialist supporting Quality Improvement staff across the state offering training and technical assistance as well as professional development support. She has been with our organization since 2015.
Ms. Rountree has been involved in the early childhood education field for more than 20 years. She is HighScope certified using the Classroom Observation Record (COR Advantage), Program Quality Assessment (PQA), and Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).
Ms. Rountree received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from The Ohio State University, elementary teaching certification from California Lutheran University, and Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Northern Michigan University.
Jesse Steinberg joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation team in February 2023 as a Communications Coordinator. With a background in LGBTQ+ youth advocacy and research, Jesse is excited to learn about the specific needs of children and families across the state of Michigan.
Before joining ECIC, Jesse worked for the Communications and Development team at SMYAL, empowering LGBTQ+ youth in the D.C. area. Their passion is conducting outreach to marginalized communities through social media and online community-building, and they hope to bring this inclusive lens to ECIC’s communications.
Jesse holds a Bachelor of Arts in Justice & Law from American University and recently graduated with a Masters’ Degree in Media Advocacy from Northeastern University.
Stacy Trelewski has been with ECIC since March 2022. She has dedicated her life to serving children and families. Since 2001, she has worked with children and their families in a variety of capacities, from childcare, to family education, to teaching preschool, and eventually coaching teachers.
Mrs. Trelewski is very passionate about early childhood education and the benefits that it has on our youngest members of society. She has a strong knowledge of developmentally appropriate and best practices. It is important to her that all children receive education in social/emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and math in a play-based learning environment. She is passionate about social emotional development, and strongly believes that all behavior is communication. She is committed to ensuring that the children and families in her care are served to the best of her ability.
Mrs. Trelewski’s educational background began when she completed her Associate’s Degree of Applied Arts in Child Development. Soon after, she enrolled in Spring Arbor University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Family Life Education in 2007. After an eleven-year hiatus, she began an adventure at Central Michigan University, where she graduated with a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education in 2020.
Amber Vanderzalm joined ECIC as a Great Start to Quality Assessor in 2017. Her current work is focused on conducting on-site observations based on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), Environmental Rating Scales (ERS), and Social Emotional Learning Program Quality Assessment (SEL PQA). Ms. Vanderzalm is passionate about supporting Early Childhood programs as they strive to provide high quality care for all of Michigan’s children.
Ms. Vanderzalm has worked in the Early Childhood field for over twenty years in a variety of roles, including Lead Head Start Teacher, Mentor, and Education Specialist. Through her work, she has gained experience in best practices in teaching, assessment of programs and staff, and providing resources to improve the quality of the program.
Ms. Vanderzalm received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education specializing in Early Childhood from Western Michigan University. Ms. Vanderzalm is certified as a reliable assessor by Teachstone in the CLASS tools, ERSI in the ERS tools, and Weikart in the SEL PQA.
Senior Program Director
Donna J. Wade
Donna J. Wade, M.Ed. joins ECIC as our Senior Program Director, overseeing ECIC’s early care and education programming. Donna brings more than 25 years of experience in the early care and education field, specializing in advancing the quality of care for young children. Most recently, the past six years, she has served as Director of Quality Services for a non-profit organization supporting the early care and learning field in Alaska. Donna’s portfolio included: managing statewide childcare initiatives, improvement systems, leading Alaska’s implementation of QRIS, and supervising staff. Prior to her work in Alaska, she also worked in a range of roles on quality assessment, professional development and technical assistance with the Pennsylvania Keystone STARS program and is a frequent speaker at conferences and sought-after ECE instructor in higher education. Among Donna’s national affiliations, she is active with BUILD, the National Association for the Education of the Young Child, the National Black Child Institute and the National Professional Development Center for Inclusion. Donna holds a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from West Chester University of PA and a BA in Organization Management from Immaculata University.
Policy & Outreach Associate
Kelly Walden joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in January 2022 as the Policy & Outreach Associate. In this role, she works with coalition partners to advance policy change at the state and federal levels.
Kelly has experience in strategic planning, policy analysis, program evaluation, and community advocacy.
Kelly earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master’s in Social Work specializing in Organization and Community Leadership from Michigan State University.
Training Support Specialist
Dana Williams joined ECIC as the Training Support Specialist in July 2022. Dana has over 15 years of experience serving in the early childhood education field working as both an educator for young children from infant through Prekindergarten, as well as in leadership positions helping teams of professionals grow and develop through training and professional development. She is passionate about helping improve early childhood education by empowering those who teach and care for children, sharing the importance of early childhood education and how it can drastically improve communities, and helping all families have affordable and accessible early education for their children. Dana’s mission is to make an impact in the lives of children and help bring understanding about their development that gives them a solid foundation to grow on for life.
Dana received my Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and leadership from Rasmussen University.
Senior Administrative Coordinator
Heather Wilson serves as the senior administrative coordinator to the senior director of Equity and Leadership. She joined our team in October of 2022. Heather has been supporting senior leaders for over twenty years and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sign Language Studies from Madonna University.
Ms. Zyburt has been working in advocacy, nonprofits, and early childhood for the past decade.
A strong believer in partnering with parents and families, Sarah is excited about working to increase equity in early childhood through engagement and empowerment. Her work history includes nonprofit leadership, development, systems building, facilitation, and coaching.
Zyburt earned her Bachelor of Science from Northern Michigan University, and as a fervent lifelong learner, continues her post-baccalaureate studies.
ECIC’s finances are managed by Plante Moran.
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