She’s Tackling the Early Childhood Educator Crisis in Los Angeles

Innovation Fellow Christina Hernandez matches community college students with retired early educators to help prepare enough preschool teachers.

Early Childhood Education Student Advancement Program end-of-year gathering between community college students and mentors in Los Angeles.

Photo caption: Early Childhood Education Student Advancement Program end-of-year gathering between community college students and mentors in Los Angeles.

What is your program and what inspired you to start it? 

Christina HernandezThe Early Childhood Education Student Advancement Program (ECE-SAP) matches Los Angeles community college students with experienced professionals invested in developing the next generation of early childhood educators.

I was inspired to start it after learning about the educator shortage in Los Angeles. I have three nieces under the age of four years old and believe that it’s important for every child to receive the appropriate care and development required for their age. I’ve seen the struggles that my sisters have gone through to care for their children and how difficult it can be to find quality child care in their communities. 

What problem are you trying to solve? 

There are approximately 650,000 children under the age of 5 in Los Angeles County, yet licensed centers and family child care homes only have the capacity to serve 13 percent of working parents with infants and toddlers. There’s a desperate need for more educators in the field, especially as the current workforce retires. The City of Los Angeles is filling the gap by providing training opportunities to potential educators and connecting them to resources to support their educational and workforce journeys. 

How does it work?

We provide supportive services to community college students in early childhood education, including scholarships, coaching sessions, mentoring opportunities, and paid internships. The intergenerational aspect of the program matches older mentors with prospective preschool educators who are meeting with infants, toddlers and preschoolers as part of their internship at a child development site. 

To apply, Los Angeles Community College District students interested in child development complete an application online through a portal called HireLA. For mentors to participate, they complete an online application that can be accessed here

Why choose a cogenerational approach? 

More child development professionals who have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the field are retiring. We match a community college student with an older adult or retired professional as a mentor. This allows those with years of professional experience to share their knowledge with a younger generation that’s new to the field, while simultaneously sharing some of that knowledge with the children at their internship site. 

What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see? 

All children deserve to be seen, nurtured, and raised with dignity and love. We want to be able to meet the needs of every child in Los Angeles with qualified professional educators who are paid a fair wage, who view their jobs as careers, with stability and growth for themselves and the children under their care. If this succeeds, the health and well-being of families, children, and communities will improve. 

How can people get involved with your work?

If people are interested in learning more about the Early Childhood Education Student Advancement Program, they can reach out to me at [email protected]. More information can be found at

What are you most proud of in your life? 

Obtaining my Master’s degree in Social Work from UCLA and, as a result, making my parents proud of my accomplishments. 

Learn more about Christina Hernandez here