Children’s Institute is pleased to honor Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson with the Alexander Award for her efforts to implement a universal preschool program in Multnomah County. The Preschool for All ballot measure, which passed in November, 2020 with the support of 64 percent of voters, was the culmination of nine months of work by a task force led by Commissioner Vega Pederson and including leaders from the public, private, and social sectors. CI will honor Commissioner Vega Pederson at a virtual event on October 12, 2021.
Preschool for All will provide free high-quality, developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive preschool experiences to 3- and 4-year-olds in Multnomah County. According to Commissioner Vega Pederson, “Preschool for All will create a preschool system that provides our children with the supportive, joyful learning environments they need to thrive, while alleviating a huge financial burden and barrier to participation in the workforce for families, and particularly for women.”
Commissioner Vega Pederson has a long history of successful advocacy and has served as County Commissioner since 2016. Her approach to offering free, high-quality preschool while also increasing wages for preschool teachers has received national attention as a potential model for the rest of the country. John Tapogna, CI’s board chair and the president of ECONorthwest, says, “Access to high-quality preschool can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Thanks to Jessica’s vision and hard work, all children in Multnomah County will have access to the early learning opportunities they need to thrive, in kindergarten and beyond.”
More about the Alexander Award
The Alexander Award is named for prominent Oregon leader Dick Alexander and was first awarded by Children’s Institute to Governor John Kitzhaber in 2013 for his work building Oregon’s early childhood system. Since then, the award has recognized individual leaders such as Ken Thrasher and Sue Miller and communities like Wallowa County for significant work to improve the lives of young children. Beyond honoring individual leaders and communities, the Alexander Award calls attention to the need for business and civic leaders to work together to build a system of programs and services to support children’s healthy development and school readiness in order to ensure Oregon’s future success.