LACOE Celebrates New LA County Early Educators Completing the UPK Career Development Initiative

Wed May 22 13:07:00 PDT 2024

Over 90 L.A. County parents, teachers and community members completed their early educator requirements to address the current teacher shortage.

On Friday, May 17, 2024, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Head Start and Early Learning Division celebrated the second-year cohort of the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Career Development Initiative (UPK-CDI). The end-of-year celebration honored over 90 early educators for earning their qualifications to enter or advance in the field of early childhood education.

This year’s event highlighted the program's significant growth, marked by the introduction of three new pathways designed to empower individuals to excel in early childhood education. Addressing L.A. County’s critical early educator shortage, UPK-CDI has empowered Head Start parents, teachers and community members to achieve their educational and career development goals while meeting the early learning and care needs of children and families.

“The UPK-CDI participants’ hard work and commitment has transformed their lives and the lives of the children and families they will support. The skills and knowledge they have gained through UPK-CDI will ripple out into our community for years to come,” said Dr. Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools.

Among the graduates, more than 70 participants completed the requirements to become qualified assistant teachers in Head Start classrooms across L.A. County—nearly doubling the number from last year's inaugural group. Additionally, 20 individuals successfully finished one of the newly introduced pathways—this included assistant teachers earning qualifications to become lead preschool teachers, transitional kindergarten teachers completing their early childhood education unit requirements and Head Start parents obtaining the Family Development Credential–Community Health Worker dual certification.

Representatives of six cohorts spoke at the event, highlighting how the UPK-CDI has helped break down barriers and allow them to pursue dreams that had often seemed just out of reach. Speakers representing Congresswoman Judy Chu, West LA College, and the Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment congratulated participants on their accomplishments and encouraged them to continue their journey of learning and teaching.

“As you know, this career path is not always easy, but it is so rewarding and always impactful, because every day when you go to work, you have the opportunity to make a lifelong difference in a child’s life,” added Luis Bautista, Head Start and Early Learning Division executive director.

The UPK-CDI is a collaboration between the Los Angeles County Office of Education, UCLA, West LA College, University of Connecticut and more than a dozen local school districts and nonprofits. Several third-year cohorts are already underway, including through new partnerships with the L.A. County Department of Economic Opportunity and East LA College.

Visit LACOE's Early Learning webpage for additional information on the UPK-CDI.