Things are moving fast at the Northwest Indian College and the Lummi community.  For the last three and a half years of collaboration and planning on behalf of the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative by the American Indian College Fund, the leadership and partnerships have created many exciting new opportunities for families and children in the Lummi community.  The Wakanyeja ECE initiative, , has supported the incubation of these projects and collaborations, and allowed us to build a foundation that will support the continuation of these amazing partnerships.

The early learning center at Northwest Indian College has made great strides in our overall quality and has enrolled in the Washington State Department of Early Learning’s Early Achievers program.  Early Achievers is a quality rating and improvement system for state licensed child care programs that is providing support, resources, and guidance for early learning center management and staff as we work to provide an environment where young children and families will thrive.  The support we receive from the Wakanyeja ECE initiative and the Ké’ Early Childhood Education Initiative allows us to meet these quality goals.

Furthermore, the Wakanyeja ECE initiative is helping to enrich the curricula used at all of our partner early learning programs.  Every Professional Learning Community participant has received an Identity Safety Literacy Kit and a classroom enhancement stipend, to ensure that teachers are using instructional materials that foster place-based education and create culturally responsive learning environments.

The Wakanyeja ECE initiative and Ké’ ECE leadership teams have also created new connections between the numerous early learning and family support programs in the Lummi community.  The Ey’ Snat Family Fun events were previously limited to families with children enrolled in the Lummi Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  The Ké’ ECE team has worked to bridge the gaps between families served by these programs and the NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Childcare and the Teen Parent Child Development Center.  Recent events have included a traditional Lummi salmon BBQ, Coast Salish art lessons, drum making, and dancing.  By welcoming families from the numerous early learning programs, and pairing health and wellness information and resources with Lummi cultural activities, the participation in these events has skyrocketed.  We look forward to many more of these wonderful family centered events as we continue to strengthen the web of early childhood and family support programs.

Alicia Allard is the Early Learning Center Director at Northwest Indian College