AmeriCorps in Action

Innovative New Infant and Toddler Initiative Launches in Minnesota

Did you know that every moment of connection with a child in their first 1,000 days of life has an impact? Interactions and relationships between infants, toddlers and their caregivers are key to the developing brain. That’s why we have launched the Infant and Toddler Initiative with Early Learning Corps.  

Through the new initiative, AmeriCorps members serve as Early Learning Partners and provide support for children during their first years of life. Members work closely with a team of educators and caregivers at an Early Head Start or childcare site. They will enhance daily activities, help our youngest learners build important skills, and support essential caregivers.  

“Extensive research indicates that the returns on investment in high-quality early education and school readiness initiatives are significant and long lasting – impacting our children, our society and the health of our economy,” said Kate Kelly, PNC regional president for Minnesota. “We’re excited to support this innovative approach to early childhood education and look forward to seeing this program in action.”  

The Strategy

The Infant and Toddler Initiative will benefit young children by applying research that shows early brain development thrives on back-and-forth interactions that generate new neutral pathways and support strong development overall. This strategy is called “Serve and Return” which has been proven to strengthen neuron development at the very earliest ages. 

So, what exactly is the “Serve and Return” strategy? It’s like a game of tennis or volleyball – the child “serves” by signaling readiness for interaction with eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, babbling or touch. A responsive caregiver “returns” the serve by speaking back, playing a game or sharing a toy. It’s simple and powerful.  

Children and caregivers already interact this way, but when done repeatedly and with caring adults, the brains of young children can really flourish. Healthy brain pathways form, and children develop a positive sense of agency which strengthens their relationships with caring adults.  

How you can help  

Early Learning Corps members serving with the Infant and Toddler Initiative will build on the strengths of the caregivers, parents, and community to integrate this proven approach within a unique, culturally specific environment. The program was designed to align the additional capacity and training of the AmeriCorps members with existing childcare providers. Together, they will provide young children with a warm, supportive, and enriched learning environment.   

If you’re passionate about helping our youngest learners discover the joy of learning, apply by December 13th. As part of the Infant and Toddler Initiative you’ll receive great training and support to help you make an impact. You’ll also receive a stipend (equivalent to $16 + an hour) and may qualify for up to $2,600 for tuition or student loans.  

10 Early Learning Partners are needed in Minneapolis and St. Paul to begin serving in January 2024. Full-time and part-time opportunities are available. If you want to make a difference, visit to apply or click below to learn more! 

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