Dedication to quality child care
When Mischelle Ulrich first applied to work at 360 Communities, she recognized that the organization did more than address immediate needs. They had their eye on prevention and investing in future generations. This upstream vision inspired Mischelle to work on supporting quality child care access in her community in various roles at 360 Communities. Twenty-five years later, Mischelle supervises 360 Communities Child Care Aware in Dakota County.
Because of Mischelle and her dedicated team, thousands of children each year have an enriched child care experience that helps prepare them for school and life. The Child Care Aware team offers providers access to valuable tools and coaching to build upon their successes and strengthen their programs.
“Child care is such a vital part of a healthy community. The quality of the program matters because strong programs keep children safe and healthy and teach them the skills they will need for success in school and life,” says Mischelle.
Growing Child Care Aware
“I love that the program has evolved to where my team spends most of its time helping programs learn and increase their quality.” Mischelle says that over the years, she has seen an increase in public awareness of the critical role quality child care plays in society, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is proud of how her team creatively responded to COVID, ensuring providers had access to health and safety supplies for their programs.
“Some months, it was freezing cold, but our team was out in the parking lot distributing these products for providers.”
Mischelle enjoys how the work has progressed over the years and that her resourceful team has grown and found new ways to improve the program.
She noted that they recently implemented the Wayfinder program in Dakota County, which helps new providers launch their programs and increase the capacity of child care services in the community. So far, Child Care Aware Wayfinder has begun helping ten providers launch new programs, and one of them has already opened a new child care center.
Mischelle’s contributions to the foundation of students’ academic and social well-being are immense and generational. There are adults today who attended child care programs she supported decades ago. Some of those adults may have children in programs today who are benefiting from the work she and her team of Child Care Aware coaches do.
“Under Mischelle’s supervision at 360 Communities, Child Care Aware has consistently improved its support of child care providers across Dakota County,” says Director of Programs and Operations Lisa Lusk. “Whether it is a child care center or an at-home provider, her team is creative and walks alongside providers to coach them to become the best programs they can be.”
When we support children from birth to pre-kindergarten, we set them up for a successful start to school, which has a domino effect on their lives. When students stay on track in school academically and socially, there are profound and positive impacts on society.
Thank you, Mischelle, for your 25 years of dedication to 360 Communities and your steadfast leadership in building bright futures.