Meet Our Special Guest and Panelists
Honorable Congresswoman Grace Meng
Welcome and Opening Remarks
U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng is serving her fifth term in the United States House of Representatives. Grace represents the Sixth Congressional District of New York encompassing the New York City borough of Queens, including west, central, and northeast Queens.
Grace is the first and only Asian American Member of Congress from New York State and the first female Congressmember from Queens since former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro.
Grace is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is Vice Chair of its Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She also sits on the Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies and Agriculture. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding the federal government’s programs and activities.
Grace is a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues. She helped create and serves as a founding member and former Co-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus which works to mitigate excessive aircraft noise that adversely affects communities.
Grace has passed several pieces of legislation into law. These include laws about religious freedom, making Queens historic sites part of the National Park Service, striking “Oriental” from federal law, protecting public housing residents from insufficient heat, and establishing a commission to study the feasibility of establishing a national museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture. Also signed into law were her measures to assist veterans and members of the military, and provisions to improve consumer protections and safeguards for children.
In addition, Grace has fought to expand opportunities for communities of color, young people and women, and she secured resources to help local small-businesses.
Born in Elmhurst, Queens, and raised in the Bayside and Flushing sections of the borough, Grace attended local schools, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the University of Michigan. She then earned a law degree from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Prior to serving in Congress, Grace was a member of the New York State Assembly. Before entering public service, she worked as a public-interest lawyer.
Grace resides in Queens with her husband, Wayne, and two sons, Tyler and Brandon.
Panelist, 2022 NAEYC AIF Community Contributor Award recipient
Jason Low is publisher/co-owner of Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. Founded in 1991, Lee & Low celebrates its 30th Anniversary in 2021. Lee & Low is part of Foreword Magazine’s esteemed list of Indie Publishers of the Year and the recipient of an Angel Award from The Eric Carle Museum for its dedication to diverse books and BIPOC artists and authors. Lee & Low is also the originator of the Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS), which measures inclusivity behind the scenes in publishing. DBS has become the largest data sampling of its kind within the industry and acts as both a catalyst for change and an accountability tool to push for more equity.
Panelist, 2022 NAEYC AIF Leadership Award recipient
Debbie LeeKeenan is lecturer, consultant and author. She has been in the field of early education for over 50 years. She is a former preschool, special education, and elementary school teacher. She was director of the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School at Tufts University from 1996 to 2013. She has been a member of the early childhood faculty at Tufts University, Lesley University and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Debbie is a producer of the new award winning film, Reflecting on Anti-bias Education in Action: The Early Years, released in April 2021. Her co-authored books include: From Survive to Thrive: A Director’s Guide for Leading an Early Childhood Program and Leading Anti-bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change. She is a Chinese -American of immigrant parents, and part of a multi-racial family. Her work has been published in numerous journals and books, including Young Children and Child Care Exchange. For more information, https://www.antibiasleadersece.com/.
Iris Chin Ponte, PhD
Iris Chin Ponte is director and classroom teacher at the Henry Frost Children’s Program in Belmont, MA. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University. Recognized as an Exchange Emerging Leader in 2015, Iris is a former Fulbright Scholar, with expertise in cross-cultural issues in education in the United States, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, China, Japan, and Newfoundland. She worked for Sesame Street Research at the Children’s Television Workshop in New York and has published in the areas of children and technology, behavior management, children’s play, outdoor environmental design, early education program leadership and birth parent reunions and heritage trips for adoptees in China. Dr. Ponte has received professional recognition from the Children’s Defense Fund, CBS, and the American Educational Research Association and was awarded the Thomas J. Watson IBM Fellowship.
Jenny Yen, PhD
Shu-Chen (Jenny) Yen, a professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), has more than 25 years of professional experience in ECE. She has done substantial service to the ECE field at the local, state, and national levels. Her services stemmed from the Orange County AEYC’s Peace Camp in 2000, and as of today, she focuses on raising scholarships for children living in homeless shelters to attend the camp. At the state level, she was the former Secretary and Vice President of CAAEYC; she was the founder of the Mandarin workshops and for the CAAEYC Honor an Early Childhood Educator Award. At the national level, she serves on several committees including the co-founder of NAEYC’s Asian Interest Forum, a member of the NAEYC CEO Search Committee, was a member of the Affiliate Advisory Council, Nominating Committee, etc. She has also been an advocate for young children through her work as a children’s book author. She has created several “social stories” in timely response to multiple international natural disasters and social crises, including typhoons, hurricanes, COVID-19, and anti-Asian racism.
Sandy Baba, PhD
Dr. Sandy Baba is a recognized researcher and practitioner in early care education and family service development. She has led and participated in numerous statewide and national quality rating improvement system efforts. Dr. Baba has degrees in Asian Studies (B.A., University of California, Davis), Early Childhood Education (M.A, San Francisco State University), and Transformative Studies, Education Management and Advocacy (PhD., California Institute of Integral Studies). She developed a family engagement framework to support low-income Asian American immigrants that was recognized and published by the US Department of Education. Dr. Baba is an advocate in promoting learning environments for children and adults with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). She is a co-founder of the NAEYC Asian Interest Forum with a goal to elevate the workforce, families and children in the United States and the globe. Dr. Baba was one of the contributing writers and reviewers for the 4th edition of NAEYC’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice published in 2022. She is currently a senior adjunct professor at Pacific Oaks College, Graduate School of Human Development and Education, and serves on the board of directors for The Council for Professional Recognition.