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This year, 50CAN celebrates ten years of support for local leaders as they work to improve education policy in their states. There is a lot to be grateful for as we reflect on all of the people who have stepped up to lead a local campaign, attended a rally, sent a letter or donated to our grassroots efforts for change.
I’m particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Vallay Varro, who has played an indispensable role in helping 50CAN become the organization it is today. Because of this, it is with great sadness that I write to share the news that Vallay will be stepping down from her role as 50CAN’s president next month.
Vallay got her start as an early childhood educator and when we first met, she was serving as the education policy advisor to the Mayor of St. Paul, MN and as an elected member of the St. Paul school board. She joined 50CAN on day one and took on the challenge of launching a brand new campaign, serving as the founding executive director of MinnCAN and kicking off what would be a decade of leadership in the 50CAN network.
After successfully leading MinnCAN to major policy wins like alternative certification for teachers, teacher evaluation, a quality rating system for early education programs and $28 million dollars in early education funding, I tapped Vallay to join the national team as 50CAN’s first senior vice president of states. In that role, she began our expansion across the US by recruiting, hiring and supporting leaders from coast to coast. Her work with partners, philanthropists and local leaders helped grow the network from four initial states to over a dozen within a few years.
A few years later, Vallay stepped into the role of president, serving as my partner through our next phase of growth. She helped double and diversify our funding, invested in professionalizing our operating systems and embraced innovation at every turn. Vallay launched 50CAN’s flagship advocacy fellowship during this time, securing 76 applicants from 27 states in its inaugural year, and ultimately resulting in the launch of state campaigns like DelawareCAN, NewMexicoKidsCAN and HawaiiKidsCAN. Over the past two years, Vallay leaned into advocacy technology, spearheading the creation of Expedition Advocacy, an online platform that allows local leaders to plan, monitor and track their work.
Her talents, passion and commitment to the work make her the sort of leader every staff member can look up to and the sort of partner every CEO should have. Both she and her time at 50CAN have been truly special.
Personally, no one has benefited more from Vallay’s mentorship and guidance than myself. Vallay has left her mark on the organization but also on me. I know she will be wildly successful with all of her future endeavors, and she will always have a home at 50CAN, the organization she helped create.
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