Uplifting Families Through Uninterrupted Service
In early spring, NHSA named 14 individuals as 2020 BOLD Prize winners in recognition of their extraordinary leadership in response to the unique challenges they encountered in 2020… Over the course of this summer, NHSA is sharing insights from each BOLD Prize Winner about leading through unprecedented times and overcoming uncertainty and adversity to support both staff and the children and families Head Start serves.
Turning the challenges of 2020 into opportunities and keeping the long-term well-being of families at the center of her decisions make Stacy Lewis a 2020 BOLD Game Changer.
Stacy Lewis is the director of Thrive to Five Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, which supports 850 children and their families in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the initial weeks of the pandemic, with agility and a ‘fail fast’ mindset, Stacy and her team worked to meet families’ needs through virtual learning and home visits. They designed a weekly electronic newsletter for families that included pre-recorded read-alouds, educational activities, and guidance for routines and behavior management, which they translated into multiple languages. To address access issues, they organized a weekly diaper and wipe distribution to families who could not travel, nor find these supplies in stores. Stacy culminated the herculean efforts by scaling up these distributions to include weekend meal packages through the spring and summer, often handing out homemade masks for adults and children.
While simultaneously ensuring the essential needs of Thrive to Five’s families, Stacy also focused on the bigger picture threats to early learning capacity in the Lancaster area. Prior to COVID, only one in five families in Lancaster County had access to a high-quality, early childhood program, and Stacy feared that more families would lose access since two centers with Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships or state preschool slots were at imminent risk of closure. Stacy was determined to preserve those EHS-CCP spaces, and between June and October 2020, her program successfully licensed two new facilities, took over the failing programs, preserved the care options for the families displaced by the failing programs, and retained more than 100 funded spaces for children ages birth to five in Lancaster, while offering continued employment to more than 20 early childhood professionals.
Stacy believes the Head Start model — differentiated levels of support for children and families that enable them on their journey to economic stability — is what is needed now more than ever.
In her own words:
“I am future-oriented and strong at forecasting where we need to go. I think my greatest contribution has been to use this skill to “tee” things up for the team and then trust others to bring the best ideas and own the solutions, giving them the support they need and then stepping out of their way. I embraced the uncertainty, this lack of having an immediate answer, by conveying the confidence that we will figure it out — that with each challenge, anticipated or unanticipated, we come through it even stronger and more aware of who we are than when we went into it. During this time I advocated, we could not keep waiting for directions and that we would need to make informed, independent action, deliberately and carefully.”
Learn more about the 2020 BOLD Leadership Prize and explore profiles of the BOLD leaders in your community on our website.