MELA envisions an equitable early childhood system where Mississippi children reach their full potential.
MELA exists to build, strengthen, and support coalitions to advocate for systems change to improve early learning and child development outcomes in our state.
• We champion shared policies,
• We promote innovative and evidence-based practices,
• We support the collaborative design of solutions and collective action,
• We elevate the voices and experiences of individuals who work in the field of early care and education and parents of Mississippi children most impacted by racial and economic inequality.
The Mississippi Early Learning Alliance (MELA) was established in 2019 through the vision and support of the Tallahatchie River Foundation (TRF). It is the evolution of the Thrive by 3rd statewide early childhood advisory committee, which was convened by TRF in 2015. MELA’s founding was guided by the potential to bring partners together for the purpose of driving systemic change for Mississippi’s children, ages 0–8.
Now, MELA exists to drive collective efforts in Mississippi to rethink our current early care and education system and design a system that works better for everyone: childcare providers, families, employers, other early childhood professionals, and of course, our children. MELA is building a powerful network called Forum for the Future that is driven by a common goal: By 2030, Mississippi will have a state-of-the-art child care system, fueled by robust data, cross-sector collaboration, and resources. While we create many opportunities for early childhood interest-holders to convene, our annual Early Childhood Capitol Days remain a core strategy to align early childhood work and elevate the perspectives of childcare providers and parents to policymakers.
In addition to our long-term collective impact efforts, MELA works to meet more immediate stakeholder needs through curated communications and information-sharing, ad-hoc support for provider-led initiatives, a shared services website and program for childcare providers (MSEarlyLearningResources.org), and the Leading from Strength Empowerment Network, an initiative to promote the professional advancement of women of color working in early childhood care and education.
Asset- and Possibility-Oriented
We start with and look for what is good. We are committed to looking beyond what is probable and focusing on what is possible for children, families, and communities in MS. We are not afraid of taking risks and sharing new ideas to reach our goals.
We recognize that no single group of people, program, or group of programs working in isolation from each other can tackle the barriers that prevent children from meeting readiness benchmarks as they enter school. We commit to seeking out, working with, and learning from others
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity
We hold the conviction that only from diverse backgrounds and divergent points of view can we find the best solutions. We acknowledge that current social and economic systems and structures benefit some groups while harming others. We leverage our resources to encourage equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. As we do so, we actively examine our roles in perpetuating inequitable systems.
We are strategic about how we leverage our resources so that we reach our goals (and help others reach theirs).
Work of equity is unequivocally about relationships and people. Therefore, we make space to understand, connect, and build meaningful relationships with one another. We are invested in the success of others, we treat each other with respect and kindness, and we will work diligently to lift each other up.
MELA’s Annual Reports and Strategic Plan
The Mississippi Early Learning Alliance (MELA) Annual Reports are designed to summarize our activities and accomplishments every year. In the reports, we share our evolving vision for early childhood in Mississippi, explain the strategies and tactics we are using to drive progress toward that vision, and highlight emerging areas of work and collaboration.
While we are excited to share and celebrate the work we have done, MELA also intends for these reports to serve as an accountability tool. We seek to be transparent about our progress with our funders, partners, and the greater early childhood community of Mississippi.
Latest Report Highlights
From July 2021 – June 2022…
- We launched the Forum for the Future Steering Committee and the initiative’s first Working Group. During this reporting period, over 70 individuals or organizations were engaged in or publicly supportive of (MELA serves as the backbone organization for this collective impact initiative).
- MELA hosted a virtual Early Childhood Capitol Day with four other organizations. Over 100 early childhood professionals attended, and eight legislators participated. Both political parties were represented in our legislator panel and discussion sessions.
- Mississippi Early Learning Resources (shared services) welcomed over 1,500 registered users to the platform, which represents a 20% increase from the previous year. Over 100 childcare and early childhood professionals attended our first shared services conference (in-person).
- MELA launched our first Leading from Strength cohort of 14 highly-qualified women of color working in early care and education.
- MELA’s social media reach increased by 150%, and our email campaigns consistently performed above industry benchmarks.
This report was published in November 2022, then republished with minor revisions in December 2022.