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November 1 marked one year as a professor at the University of Maryland and program director of the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative. When I moved to Maryland from Ohio, it was an adventure. Moving during a pandemic, leaving my only child to fend for himself, arriving in College Park where I didn’t know one soul, and transitioning from consulting to a collegiate classroom all added to the excitement. My first year has been filled with adjustments and lessons learned and it has all been well worth it. In Ohio, I had spent years developing relationships with children’s advocates, elected officials and funders on behalf of Ohio’s children. Now I have this ripe opportunity to forge new partnerships in a shared goal to positively impact the lives of children through the development of the next generation of children’s advocates–a generation who will envision a bold path forward for kids, offer new strategies and implement fresh ideas for their success.

Beyond my work anniversary, this is also the season when we collectively give thanks for all the good things in our lives. As I reflect, I am overwhelmed. There is a lot to celebrate.

Due to supporters like you, we have been able to:

  • Refresh the Child and Family Advocacy course to align with Annie E. Casey Foundation’s core competencies for children’s advocates;
  • Select two classes of fellows; 14 students total. (The 2023 fellows will be announced soon. Stay tuned.)
  • Witness student impact in children’s advocacy organizations and their transformation through this opportunity;
  • Establish an advisory committee which includes top experts in the field of children’s advocacy as well as people who worked alongside Karabelle Pizzigati; and
  • Grow a list of companies and organizations that welcome the opportunity to host fellows and contribute to their learning and development.

Beyond the program’s progress, I have gained new friends and colleagues who have refueled my passion’s fire. And although Mrs. Pizzigati is no longer with us, I learn from her daily through the stories that live on in the hearts of those who knew her well. I hope to emulate her intentional approach to sound policy for children and their families, thoughtful mentorship of change agents for good and her love for Terrapin sports. Yes, I have officially retired my Buckeye attire to the back of the closet. I attended the recent Maryland v. OSU football game. A gentleman seated next to me asked whether my son was on the team and at that moment I understood Mrs. Pizzigati’s commitment to UMD sports. I responded “yes, they all are.”

As we approach her birthday, I am hopeful for the future of this initiative which will continue to honor her life and legacy. I am never one to rest on my laurels. We have begun planning growth for this initiative, one where students can work alongside faculty to inform research, propose and advocate for policy solutions, participate in a wide range of professional development opportunities, and network with leading children’s advocacy professionals. We are brainstorming ideas for partnership with UMD athletics and prioritizing attracting diverse applicants to the fellowship opportunity. As we move fearlessly forward, I anticipate an initiative which has programming beyond the fellowship. One that will offer students across disciplines a means to connect to issues that impact kids and to the broader child advocacy community.

Your support allowed for a quick program reboot. Whether it was a kind word or email, a connection to someone who might be interested in hosting a student or learning more about the initiative, a financial contribution, attending one of our events, or offering advice behind the scenes, please accept my sincere gratitude. In our collective fight for kids, thank you for all you are doing to equip students to battle on their behalf.

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