Students at Escuela Viva Community School | Padraic O’Meara

Impact highlight

Early Learning

Our Early Learning Hubs in Multnomah (ELM) and Washington (ELWC) counties focus on developing early learning systems that are aligned, family-centered and prioritize providing low-income kids of color ages 0-6 with the support they need to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen that our region’s economic health depends on the availability of affordable childcare and preschool. Together, ELM and ELWC enrolled 546 children in new, state funded preschool opportunities in 2020-21. Over 38 preschool providers, from home-based care to school districts, partnered with the hubs to open these placements free of charge to families with limited incomes. Thanks to this collaboration and investment, more than 536 families were able to work and support their families while their children attended preschool.

Over the course of the pandemic, ELWC convened community partners around emergency childcare services and support for essential workers; organized and distributed sanitation products for childcare providers and community partners; participated in the design and implementation of a Washington County Child Care grant that allocated $4 million in 318 awards to the most vulnerable BIPOC home-based child care providers. The ELWC Hub also provided evidence-based parent support series as well as parent-caregiver workshops to help build and sustain lifelong learning connections between children, families and communities in Washington County.

In November 2020, Multnomah County voters overwhelmingly passed 26-214, a measure supported by United Way of the Columbia-Willamette to provide high-quality, tuition-free preschool for all 3 and 4-year olds. Our ELM Parent Accountability Council (PAC) ensured parent voice was at the center of the Preschool for All Task Force, led by Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. Through PAC, parents from African American, African immigrant, Asian, Latino, Native American and Slavic communities helped shape recommendations for expanding access to preschool across the county, especially for children in communities who are not currently being served. Research estimates there is a $7-16 return to the community for every $1 spent on preschool. The return on investment comes in the form of children better prepared for school, and students achieving higher lifetime earnings and better health outcomes. See the Preschool for All timeline below.

children enrolled in preschool classrooms
parents engaged in early learning advocacy & policy reform
early literacy & STEM kits distributed to families


February 2016

The Parent Accountability Council (PAC) of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s Early Learning Multnomah (ELM) County hub begins a series of community meetings to create a preschool vision

October 2016

Preschool vision was finalized at the PAC meeting at Latino Network


In 2016–2017

ELM partnered with Social Venture Partners (SVP) to research how other communities had created universal preschool access

For the next two years, ELM convened the early childhood community and PAC to address the many infrastructure gaps that the vision highlighted

October 2017

ELM, SVP and PSU partnered to host a community-wide conversation on preschool as part of PSU’s annual Portland State of Mind event


March 2018

Newly elected Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson came forward to champion the PFA initiative and invited ELM and other early childhood leaders to lay the groundwork for a Preschool For All taskforce

September 2018

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson met with the PAC in person after which, Lydia Gray-Holifield and Petra Hernandez represented the PAC on the PFA taskforce

October 2018

A taskforce member’s response to parent quotes brought to the first PFA Taskforce meeting

November 2018

Parent leaders participated as the Parental Advisory group for the PFA Taskforce and are named in the PFA Report that was published in July 2019


June 2019

The last PFA taskforce meeting held at United Way of the Columbia- Willamette. Shown here Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson with PAC leaders Petra Hernandez and Lydia Gray-Holified, and photobombed by Lai-Lani’s daughter Leihoku.

July 2019

PAC turned 5! Celebrating five years of parent leadership

November 2019

PAC continues to give input and feedback on PFA’s policy making as part of ‘Community based participatory policy setting’


November 2020

Multnomah County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 26-216, Preschool for All!


Other impact highlights