December 6, 2019

2019 Paula Jorde Bloom Scholarship Winners Reflect on Their Experience

by McCormick Center

Paula Jorde Bloom

The McCormick Center, a thriving, nationally-recognized early childhood leadership organization, was created by our founder, Paula Jorde Bloom, from an initial grant of just $600. Paula’s legacy supports the competencies of early childhood program leaders and brings credibility to the important and complex role of these leaders, or as she was known to call them, the “gatekeepers to quality.”

After her passing in early 2018, Paula’s family established the Paula Jorde Bloom Scholarship Fund to support emerging early childhood leaders who are dedicated to providing the highest quality care and education for children and families.

In 2019, two inaugural scholarships were awarded for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership’s Leadership Connections™ National Conference. This is the premier national conference for decision-makers and leaders in early childhood education and brings together key stakeholders interested in early childhood leadership. Recipients received complimentary full-conference registration to Leadership Connections and lodging, valued at more than $1,100.

The 2019 Paula Jorde Bloom Scholarship Recipients

Angela Young is a Grant Writer and Fundraiser for Pride Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Carrie Griffin

Carrie Griffin is the Owner and Director at the Shining Star Early Learning Daycare in Shawnee, Kansas.













We asked both recipients to reflect on their experience:

MCECL: How did participation in Leadership Connections impact your development as an early childhood leader?

Angela: I am now more aware that government laws and policies for the ECE profession needs more advocates to change standards. I am in the process of developing more information about the importance of seeing changes in the ECE profession to my local government officials and in my organization.

Carrie: Participating in the Leadership Connections conference has impacted my development as an early childhood leader in two different ways. The first is that I have grown more comfortable and confident operating my family child care business by using communication strategies that we practiced in Susan McDonald’s preconference workshop. The heart of every good relationship is communication, and nurturing my connection with both the children and the parents has made my program stronger.

The second way the conference impacted my development as an early childhood leader was by giving me the tools I needed to improve communication with my fellow board members. I serve on the board for the Child Care Providers Coalition of Kansas as Treasurer, and I am extremely proud of the work my board does supporting family child care providers in our state. Every workshop that I attended at the conference gave me a huge amount of information to take back to my board. As leaders, we must exemplify professionalism and be able to work in harmony, and I learned so many ways we can improve the harmony of our team. Although the intended audience for many workshops may have been directors of a child care center, they were all very relevant to my position as a board member.


MCECL: What was your biggest takeaway or learning moment from Leadership Connections?

Angela: The biggest take away is understanding that lawmakers need to be proactive in creating policies for early childhood education. Many lawmakers continue to believe that childcare centers are just “babysitting” children until they attend kindergarten. Until lawmakers take our profession seriously, progression will remain stagnant.

Carrie: My most impactful learning moment came from a workshop titled “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” presented by Cara McKeown. I was mesmerized by the story of the team who thought they were highly efficient because they never had any disagreements. Then I learned that lack of conflict is dysfunction and it stems from the first dysfunction: lack of trust. In a healthy functioning team, coworkers (or board members in my case) must learn to trust each other enough to voice their opinions, even if they are in opposition to another teammate. When done in a healthy way, conflict is essential to a team so that the very best ideas can be hashed out. This idea struck me like a lightning bolt, and I couldn’t wait to get home and share these revelations with my board.

I carefully put together a presentation based on what I had learned from the conference and shared it with my team at our annual retreat in July. An entire weekend of communication and sharing information about our personalities and conflict resolution styles has made our board stronger and better able to serve the providers and children in our state. We now encourage each other to disagree and work to find the best solution to every situation. We also trust each other’s intentions and we no longer wonder about ulterior motives. Along with all the communication skills I learned at the conference, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” has truly turned our board into an efficient and harmonious team!


MCECL: What advice or encouragement would you share with someone who is considering attending Leadership Connections for the first time?

Angela: Come to the conference with the intent of creating connections. The most valuable part of attending this experience is the communication with ECE professionals. They have a wealth of knowledge and are able to help with concerns or issues that you are experiencing at your centers.

Carrie: My advice to any early childhood professional considering attending Leadership Connections for the first time would be to take the time to meet other attendees. Some of the greatest insight I received was from listening to their stories. In Susan McDonald’s preconference workshop, she had us pair up and take turns listening without speaking or interrupting for five minutes. That was quite a challenge for us, but we were able to fully connect with our partner and I learned so much from them. There were attendees from every part of the world and we all shared a common passion for educating children. It was truly inspiring!

I am very grateful to the McCormick Center for giving me the opportunity to learn from the wonderful professionals that gathered in Chicago for this conference. It was a gift I hope to deserve by sharing the knowledge I learned with the child care providers in Kansas.


We are pleased to announce that we will be awarding two scholarships for emerging leaders to attend Leadership Connections 2020. Applications are being accepted between Friday, December 6, 2019 and December 20, 2019.  The 2020 scholarship awards will be announced in January 2020.


Click below if you would like to learn more about the 2020 Leadership Connections National Conference.

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