Maria Whelan Leadership Institute

Empowering Early Childhood Professionals to Ascend to New Heights

At the Maria Whelan Leadership Institute, we believe that every early childhood professional has the potential to be a leader and advocate for positive change. The Maria Whelan Leadership Institute is dedicated to delivering programs that uplift and strengthen Illinois’ early childhood providers and educators.

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Two female teachers sitting at a table, having a discussion in the lobby area in the school they work at in Gateshead, North East England. They are talking about school issues together while using a laptop.


Our programs are tailored to equip early childhood professionals with the strategy and leadership skills needed to navigate the early childhood landscape. The institute is a catalyst for transformation, offering programs designed to:

  • Cultivate the skills and knowledge necessary to make a lasting impact on early childhood education and care.
  • Develop leaders and advocates who can help redefine excellence in the field.
  • Advance racial, gender, and economic equity for child care providers, families, and children.
  • Grow the pipeline of highly-skilled professionals and advocates to ensure the stability of the early childhood sector.
  • Build a field of strong professionals who will provide children with quality, nurturing, and equitable experiences.

Emerging Leaders Fellowship

Applications now open!

The Emerging Leaders Fellowship is a nine-month program offering comprehensive professional development, leadership training, networking opportunities, and more to early childhood professionals in Illinois. The program provides diverse, mid-level teachers and providers with the opportunity to enhance and refine their skills and become powerful advocates.

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Fellowship

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Coming Soon

Meet the Fellows

Meet the incredible fellows in our Emerging Leaders fellowship.

Be A Mentor

Provide mentorship and expertise to our Emerging Leaders Fellows.

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Created In Honor of Maria Whelan

Illinois Action for Children created the Maria Whelan Leadership Institute (MWLI) to honor the life and legacy of its long-time leader, Maria Whelan.

Have Questions? Get Answers!

For more information, contact:

Jacqueline Melendez

Director of Workforce Development

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