Jennifer Lopez has always had a passion for working with children, families and communities. Prior to YES Institute, she served as Executive Director of The Child Care Center, Inc., where she oversaw early childhood services for over 130 youth from infancy to Pre-K.
During her tenure as an early childhood educator, she would observe instances of bullying behaviors and would hear students as young as 4 years old using phrases such as “boys don’t cry,” “sit like a lady,” or “that’s so gay,” “you look like a girl.” And she found herself lost and not knowing how to respond to these messages in an age appropriate way or how to speak with her fellow colleagues and parents about these topics. In those moments she immediately realized that her ultimate professional goal is to work with the community to provide every child the opportunity to be unique, appreciated, and most importantly equipped with the tools to use their voices to make a lasting impact on the world.
Jen is YES Institute’s Education Specialist, engaging participants, in both English and Spanish language, in authentic and open conversations about youth safety and healthy development on the topics of gender and orientation. She also oversees the Bullying Prevention Program for Early Childhood professionals and youth – providing tools to engage in age-appropriate conversations around gender stereotypes, and nurturing a community with feelings of belonging.
Jen has a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education & Psychology, and a Masters Degree in Curriculum & Instruction Development from FIU. She is a member of the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC), and was awarded the 2018 Florida Association of Education of Young Children (FLAEYC) Member Advocate Award.
“As an early childhood specialist, I am always eager for more knowledge in creating and ensuring a safe environment for all youth to develop as healthy young people.” – Jennifer Lopez
What skills and expertise do you bring to the team?
I am a critical thinker who is highly motivated, coachable, and a team player with expertise in Early Childhood Education. I have been able to bring experiences and knowledge of how gender, orientation, and bullying shows up at such early ages. I have also assisted in creating age-appropriate material for youth and Early Childhood professionals to have access to conversations on these topics.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
That everyday is a learning experience! Specifically, having conversations with diverse communities and learning about their experiences on how gender and orientation has impacted them or the people in their lives.
What has YES Institute done that you’re particularly proud of?
Both the longevity of maintaining such a powerful mission (over 20 years!) and the way YES Institute includes the entire community in our work to create a world of US!
Name a peak experience in your life. What happened?
At the age of 25, I was appointed the Executive Director of one of the top Child Care Center’s in South Florida. I oversaw the daily operation and financials of the school. I also worked hand-in-hand with the team to ensure the implementation of the school’s philosophy and Code of Ethics to maintain a high quality program. In this role, I also created and implemented educational and developmental goals within each classroom as a whole and on individual basis for both the children and teachers. This experience was truly a huge learning curve for me on a personal and professional level providing me with the tools to further enhance my commitment to education and the need to continue my mission of creating a safe environment for all.