By Kieu My Phi, Public Policy Intern

Kieu My attending a virtual meeting with early childhood advocate Todd Otis and Think Small’s Public Policy & Advocacy Coordinator Marie Huey

Hello there! You may remember me from the blog post introducing me in February. My name is Kieu My Phi, and I am about to finish my time here at Think Small after a fantastic and UNPREDICTABLE few months as the third Todd Otis Public Policy Intern. I never thought I would be completing my internship during a pandemic! In the first weeks, I attended advocacy events, trainings, policy hours, and legislative hearings. I went to the State Capitol for the first time to listen in on the Early Childhood Committee in the Minnesota House, as well as the Health and Human Services Committee. I helped draft 2020 Census communications for the weekly email update, and tweets for our partners. I was also able to meet a fantastic bunch of early education advocates that had so much passion and love for the work that they did. After the stay-at-home orders were in place, I worked from my home and continued to research the 2020 Census, attended virtual committee meetings and webinars, and read a lot about the early childhood education field.

I am not much of a talker, so during my times with Think Small, I worked on different ways of communicating, and did a lot of listening as well. I was able to work on expanding my communication skills through writing tweets, examining email data, and learning about storytelling. This session, I listened to testimony at the Capitol, webinars about the 2020 Census, and even checked out the “I’m Just A Bill” School House Rock song.

Social Media Presence 

Before this internship, I had never written a tweet, but now I think I have mastered the skill that is Twitter. I am not a big social media person and do not usually write posts or share anything, but I have learned that having a social media presence is essential to the field. I wrote tweets about the importance of the 2020 Census and clicked through a good number of hashtags to find the right ones. After doing so, I learned how to format the tweets so others could simply click to share. That was exciting for me as they were then used by our providers and other advocates to share an important message. I do not think that I will go on to become a social media coordinator for an organization, but I have learned the importance of social media and expanded my communication skills so I can better share messages. 

Importance of Emails

Another communication tool that I worked with during my internship was email.  Think Small delivers Policy and Advocacy Updates weekly during the legislative session. I was amazed at the amount of work that goes into creating these. Throughout my internship, I learned how to work with the newsletter template, how to write content, and learned the steps that go into sending the email. I felt a sense of community and connection to our subscribers when I sent one out.

Kieu My and Marie attending a hearing in the State Office Building.

Art of Storytelling 

During this internship, I also got the chance to listen to a webinar explaining how to convey a particular message to the general population and the power of storytelling. I had the opportunity to listen to a lot of stories from providers and other advocates about the importance of this field. They talked about what needs to change for the field to get better. I have realized that it’s one big book that we are ALL trying to write in, and each and every one of us is making a difference in the field with our own individual stories. It can be as short as a sentence or as long as a whole chapter. We all have stories as to why we are passionate about the field and why we are driven to changing the area. We all have fantastic ideas of what the future of early

childhood education will look like and will continue to put in the work to get there. During this time of COVID-19, it is more important now than ever that we continue to share our stories about the importance of childcare with our elected officials. It’s also essential to take the time to read about other people’s stories as well. Think Small has a great blog series going on about capturing the voices and stories of child care providers during this time. If you have the chance, please read some of those and consider sharing your stories as well. 

I have realized that it’s one big book that we are ALL trying to write in, and each and every one of us is making a difference in the field with our own individual stories.

Relationship and Persistence 

I was able to talk to Todd Otis towards the end of my internship and he gave me some advice that pretty much summed up my time at Think Small. The first piece of advice was to build and maintain relationships. I was able to meet and learn from some fantastic advocates and human beings within this field who are shaping the future of early childhood education. I was able to build a relationship with our community by sending out policy updates and reading the stories that child care providers and workers were sharing with us. The second piece of advice was to be persistent. A staff member of Think Small told me that the work we are doing sometimes feels like “we are trying to move a ship the size of Titanic with a pencil.” Still, we continue to do it because we know the importance of helping the youngest of our society. Child care workers and providers feel this struggle every day, both before and during this pandemic, but they continue doing their work because they know the importance of helping the youngest of our society. We will continue to persist in our own ways. It could be as small as a tweet or as big as actually providing care to children during this time, but we are all impacting the field of child care. It is up to us to continue pushing the “ship” forward for all of Minnesota’s children. 

I think that wraps up the story of my time at Think Small. I would like to thank the organization for giving me this opportunity to grow as an advocate and for empowering me to continue forward in this field. I am still not much of a talker, but I have grown in other ways of communication that I will continue to use and build upon going forward. Thank you Think Small for giving me the research and fuel to keep going on my journey, and thank you for all of the work you do for early childhood education. I also would like to give thanks to all of the child care providers and workers throughout the state of Minnesota for their persistence and impact. You ALL are making this field better every day!