On Friday, October 27, Carole Robertson Center for Learning President and CEO Bela Moté accepted Erikson Institute’s inaugural Advocacy Award at the graduate school’s Annual Luncheon. The theme of the luncheon was resilience, with speakers like Moté, Erikson President Mariana Souto-Manning, and former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams reflecting on what resilience means to them and to the children in our communities.

Souto-Manning reflected on how, despite resiliency often being framed as an individual issue, resilient societies are built from equitable systems in which all families have the supports needed to reach their full potential. When introducing Moté as this year’s Advocacy Award winner, Souto-Manning said, “There is so much more that I could say about Bela, but I will simply say that the early childhood education profession is better because of her work and advocacy.”

Moté, an Erikson alumna, doubled down on Souto-Manning’s message that resiliency stems from equity and strong community supports—and that any work championing these is an act of advocacy.

“Advocacy is embedded in everything we do. It’s about meeting the needs of the individual for the betterment of the collective. That’s our honor and responsibility,” Moté said. “Advocacy happens when you strive to ensure educators are receiving not just a living, but a thriving, wage that honors the essential nature of their work and their professionalism. It happens when families are involved in their children’s learning through robust, multigenerational family engagement programs, and we honor them truly as their child’s first teachers. And it happens when children learn about social justice and can imagine a better world for themselves and others.”

Before concluding her remarks, Moté reaffirmed every child’s right to have supportive, engaged grownups staunchly in their corner: “All children deserve fierce advocates: those who believe in them, listen to them, encourage them, love them. Advocates who assure their futures are bright.”

Former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams shared the stage with Moté, receiving Erikson’s Equity Award. As the keynote speaker for the luncheon, Abrams connected the theme of resiliency to dreams—and the life-changing impact of giving children the tools they need to actualize those dreams.

“When you lift up a young child—when you shape their minds—you create the ability to believe that they can dream,” Abrams said, “And when you are young facing economic disparity, when you are young and in uncertain homes, when you are young—the ability to close your eyes and see a future is everything.”

Together, leaders like Moté, Abrams, and Souto-Manning—and organizations like Erikson Institute and the Carole Robertson Center for Learning—advocate for children at the local, state, and national levels, transforming systems and creating more resilient communities.

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Since 1976, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning has been dedicated to educating, enriching, and empowering children and families through comprehensive child and family development programs.