Sponsoring Student Groups

A Guide for NAEYC Affiliates


Early childhood teacher preparation programs at local colleges and universities are an important source of new members and emerging leaders for our organization.  Building on the experiences of Affiliates leaders around the country, NAEYC has developed guidelines and materials to help you establish - and strengthen - connections between your Affiliate and the next generation of early childhood educators.

Your Affiliate may already be working to recruit early childhood education students as members.  If so, you know that an essential step is building relationships with existing student groups or clubs, or encouraging students to create them.  Here are a few important things to remember:

  1. Student groups will not be able to meet the Roles & Functions requirements for Local Affiliate Chapters.  Instead, student groups should be developed and/or encouraged within existing State or Local Affiliates.  Also, keep in mind that most student groups are already organized under rules set by the college or university.
  2. A State Affiliate decides whether it will sponsor student groups directly, or whether the sponsorship should be arranged through Local Affiliates.  (If you are a state with Local Affiliate Chapters, then those Chapters can sponsor student groups or clubs.  If not, the sponsorship should always come from the State Affiliate.)
  3. Assess the range of early childhood teacher preparation programs in your community or state.  Are the students preparing to teach in child care, preschool, or K-3 settings?  Are they full-time students, or working in the field while earning a degree part-time?  The more you know about the programs and students, the more you can help.
  4. When you are ready to start building a connection with the early childhood student group at a local college or university, your first contact should be a professor in the early childhood education department or program.  Encourage the professor to become a Faculty Facilitator and encourage students to establish a relationship between their student group and the Local AEYC (a template for letters to local professors is attached.)
  5. While sponsorship is a great way to encourage more early childhood education students to become members of their Local, State and National AEYC, it's also important to recognize that some students will see membership dues as a burden.  However, all student members should be members at the local, state, regional and national level.  Consider establishing scholarships for student memberships, encouraging leaders of your Affiliate to sponsor individual students, and other creative ways to help them afford membership.
  6. Some students may already be members.  If a school has a two-year degree program, students may already be working in the field and connected to your Local Affiliate.  If the school has a four-year program, students may be Independent members of NAEYC.  Either way, sponsoring student groups is a good way to show students the many ways they benefit from increased involvement as members.
  7. You may want to create a committee of your Board to focus on outreach to students, especially if you are sponsoring more than one student group.  Each student group should be in contact with the committee chair or your membership director at least once each month.  Be sure to establish strong two-way communications related to upcoming events or activities.
  8. Don't forget, the new video "NAEYC: For Our Future" is a valuable tool for introducing students to their professional organization.  Each Local or State Affiliate can get one free copy of the video by contacting the NAEYC Office of Affiliate Relations.

Structuring Your Affiliate Sponsorship of Student Groups

There are many different ways to sponsor student groups.  As you plan the structure for your relationship, remember:  This is an ideal time for students to learn about NAEYC resources and to explore opportunities to serve the association and grow professionally.  The connections they build with their Affiliate today will have a significant impact on their involvement with - and leadership of - NAEYC and Affiliates in the future. 

Following are just a few examples of potential roles and activities for Affiliate leaders and students - and the different ways each of you will benefit from the relationship:

Potential roles and activities for Sponsoring Affiliates:

  • Providing workshop leaders and speakers
  • Assisting students with program planning/implementation
  • Involving students in larger advocacy efforts in the community
  • Asking students to volunteer at local conferences and events in exchange for admission
  • Providing materials to recruit other students, including event posters and member leaflets
  • Offering to send Affiliate representatives to meetings of student groups
  • Providing technical assistance and models for student group organization and bylaws
  • Advising students on lesson plans and career plans
  • Offering office resources for mailing, website outreach, newsletter articles, etc.
  • Providing opportunities for emerging leaders to work with existing leaders in the field
  • Cultivating new student groups by participating in local school events

Potential roles and activities for students:

  • Volunteering at the Local or State Conference
  • Organizing workshops for other students, featuring local experts and leaders
  • Conducting information fairs and events on campus during Week of the Young Child
  • Attending Local Affiliate events
  • Sending student representatives to meetings of Affiliates
  • Engaging in Worthy Wage Campaigns and other advocacy efforts in the community
  • Networking and building relationships with leaders in the field
  • Raising funds for field trips to other schools, NAEYC Annual Conference, etc.
  • Sponsoring volunteer service projects at child care centers, elementary schools, homeless shelters, children's hospital wards and other community organizations
  • Writing articles about the student groups for the Affiliate newsletter
  • Gaining skills in program planning, outreach, implementation and evaluation, as well as confidence in themselves as leaders
  • Connecting with the Student Interest Forum - at the NAEYC Annual Conference or on www.naeyc.org - to share ideas with other student groups around the country

Template for Letters to Potential Faculty Facilitators

Dr. Jean Smith
Reynolds College
430 University Avenue
Reynolds, OK

Dear Dr. Smith,

As you know, the [NAME OF YOUR ORGANIZATION] is an Affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children - the leading professional organization for educators working with children from birth through age eight.

We'd like to talk with you about building a stronger relationship with the early childhood student group at your [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY], and working with faculty and students to structure a formal [YOUR ORGANIZATION] sponsorship of the group.

This sponsorship would connect your students with their professional organization, and build their awareness of ways that [YOUR ORGANIZATION] and NAEYC can help them - now and in their professional future - including:

  • A growing network of early childhood professionals in our community;
  • Young Children - the leading early childhood education journal;
  • The most widely-attended professional development conference in the field; and
  • The new Students Interest Forum on the Internet at www.naeyc.org

[YOUR ORGANIZATION] is the sponsor of XX student groups at local colleges and universities.  The groups are designed to be more than "education clubs," and to support students as emerging leaders in the early childhood field.  We can give students opportunities to work directly with local AEYC leaders, forming valuable professional relationships and enhancing their educational experience.  [YOUR ORGANIZATION] can also provide staff resources to help the [REYNOLDS COLLEGE] student group with events and program planning. 

We would like to enlist you as a faculty facilitator, to help us build a stronger connection with the [REYNOLDS COLLEGE] student group.  (I'd also like to talk with you about some of the opportunities that may interest your faculty, including the annual National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development.)  If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me by phone or email.  I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely, Student's Name

Beginning the CONNECTION

By Kristen Johnson

"I want to read you this letter so that you can see what we are really a part of.   DVAEYC..." As Suzanne read the letter to her fellow GMAEYC (Gwynedd Mercy Association for the Education of Young Children) members her face lit up. The other students were glued to her as she described how their student group was aligned to the work that was going on in the region to improve the quality of early childhood education.  "So what we do here really does matter and it will make a difference.  So now we need to talk about the workshop we have coming up..."

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is when I have the opportunity to visit with a student group that is affiliated with DVAEYC.   Currently, there are six such groups.   All of the groups are involved in service projects including: adopting child care centers, homeless shelters, and children's hospital wards.  In addition to performing services, the students engage in WOYC activities, sponsor campus wide workshops, volunteer at our annual conference and fundraise for trips to such places as Bank Street and the NAEYC annual conference. 

At first glance it seems like the student groups are engaged in a lot of meaningful work - and they are - but it is also so much more.   They are learning how to be the NAEYC Affiliate leaders of tomorrow.  

Student groups serve as a pathway to participation in the affiliate structure of NAEYC.  It is often the first time that students are introduced to the importance of working cooperatively with professional colleagues to improve the early childhood field. They are learning about NAEYC resources and exploring opportunities to serve the association and to grow professionally.  

After meeting with a student group I always leave with a renewed sense of energy and am excited about the things that they are accomplishing.  But then as I reflect on the visit I often wonder whether or not they see the big picture.  Do they understand what NAEYC really is or are they just trying to build their resume by joining yet another "education club"?  So I decided to talk to a few students and see if they really felt that DVAEYC's presence on their campus was making a difference in their education.  Here is a sampling of what I heard:

  • "After being involved, I feel more like a professional and really understand the importance of ECE"
  • "I have grown a lot personally, I feel more comfortable with my peers and adults"
  • "I've learned that I can have professional conversations about children's issues"
  • "Last year at the conference I was overwhelmed to think that I was a part of this many Early Childhood Professionals.  It was such an important experience for me.  I will never miss a conference!"

Over the past few years I have met a lot of amazing young women and men in my travels from campus to campus.  They are passionate about young children and are determined to make a difference.  The more students I meet, the more I realize the potential of our organization to make a strong impact on the lives of young children in our nation.  These students are not a part of an "education club"  - they are part of NAEYC, and no matter where their lives take them after graduation, there will be an affiliate waiting for them.  Because as Suzanne put it "We are more than your typical club, we have a larger purpose - we are connected to something great!"

Promoting excellence in early childhood education for all young children: Lessons from the past for the future.

By Suzanne Kensey, Gwynedd Mercy Chapter of DVAEYC

"Education is always changing." This is what my mother tells me every time I share some of my early childhood education experiences with her. My mother has been a first grade teacher for the past seventeen years, and an elementary teacher for ten years prior to her decision to remain with first graders. Because of my mother's vast amount of knowledge and experience, I have always believed much of what she says about the field. Furthermore, it was the joy that she found in teaching young children that encouraged me to pursue a future in early childhood education.

Once my curiosity about early childhood education was sparked, I decided to immerse myself in the field as much as I possibly could. I immediately became a member of the Gwynedd-Mercy Association for the Education of Young Children (GMAEYC), a student group sponsored by the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC). Being a part of GMAEYC and DVAEYC has guided me in my search for the best that early childhood education has to offer.

Through my membership, I have attended many workshops, conferences, and meetings that have provided me with wonderful information. In addition to the tremendous amount of knowledge gained, there have also been many new friendships made. I have been introduced to some of the most influential leaders in early childhood education; for me, they have illustrated the concept of "never giving up." They have taught me the true definitions of patience and dedication through their unwavering commitment to young children. Their devotion has inspired me to strive to become such a leader someday.

In addition to providing me with inspiration, my involvement with GMAEYC and DVAEYC has helped me to appreciate the faith and hope which my mother has taught me to envision. As a member of these organizations, I have learned that one person can make a difference in the lives of many young children because he/she is surrounded by the support of thousands of others. Because of these experiences, I will always be open to any advice given and I will always remember that there are many others in the field to whom I can turn when I am in doubt.

Now that I have been involved with early childhood education myself, I have been given the opportunity to teach my mother more about education in the same way that she has taught me. It is understandable that a seasoned teacher might find difficulty in incorporating new ideas into her tried and true methods. Nevertheless, my mother has been open to much of what I have shared.  Due to her flexibility, my mother has been able to make many changes in her classroom in accordance with the new research that has been presented to the field. These changes, in turn, have led to many new ideas which my mother shares with me.

My point lies within my belief that early childhood education is an ongoing circle in which the future can learn from the past and the past can be revived in the future.  As I stated before, I am striving to become a leader in early childhood education. It is my opinion that my mother is a leader in early childhood education; she is loving, caring, and giving with each child who enters her classroom. She never loses hope and she always shows a smile. This is the type of leader that I wish to become in the future. This is where the true excellence of early childhood education lies. 

Early Childhood Student Groups: Creating Opportunities for Professional Growth and Development on Campus

by Justus Sluss (Published in Young Children, July 2004)

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