Meet our fellows


Diana Lucía Abarca
Doctoral Student
Communication Science & Disorders, Florida State University

Internship Placement: Zero to Three, Early Childhood Development

Diana Lucía Abarca is a doctoral student in Communication Science and Disorders at Florida State University and a practicing early intervention speech-language pathologist in Tallahassee, Florida. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Central Florida. Diana was born in Costa Rica and is motivated by her upbringing as a Latina woman to center Black and Latino/Hispanic families in her research and clinical practice. Diana uses funds of knowledge, family-centered, and culturally sustaining frameworks to understand the knowledge, skills, values, priorities, and beliefs that minoritized families bring with them when involved in early intervention. She aims to develop and evaluate equitable early intervention practices that pre-service and practicing early interventionists can use to sustain the culture of minoritized families with children with disabilities.

Amanda LaTasha Armstrong
Doctoral Candidate
College of Health, Education, and Social Transformation, New Mexico State University

Internship Placement: Department of Health and Human Services - Early Childhood Development

Amanda LaTasha Armstrong is a doctoral candidate at New Mexico State University (NMSU)’s College of Health, Education, and Social Transformation and the Lab Coordinator of NMSU’s Learning Games Lab team in the department of Innovative Media Research and Extension. Her dissertation study examines traits, associated with racial, ethnic, and gender groups, found in characters of preschool apps.

Amanda LaTasha is also a research fellow with New America’s Education Policy Program’s Teaching, Learning, and Tech Team and contributing writer for Edutopia. She was a 2020 CADRE Fellow with the National Science Foundation’s DRK-12 program and a member of the Technology Working Group to refresh the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standards for Educators in 2017. Prior to NMSU, Amanda conducted quantitative and qualitative research with Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative and was the program coordinator for the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center at Erikson, where she supported educators, families, and administrators in the selection, use, integration, and evaluation of technology and media in their settings.

Ashley Watts
Doctoral Student
School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Education, Marymount University Arlington

Internship Placement: National Association for the Education of YoungChildren (NAEYC)

Ashley Watts is earning her doctorate degree in Leadership and Organizational Innovation from Marymount University Arlington. She is also a program director for the  ACE-YMCA of Greater Houston. Her roots began in early childhood as she operated both private and public programs for children birth-to-five. She then transitioned to need-based programs where she worked with single mothers to address school readiness, quality care, and adult education. Ashley currently works with 1st - 5th graders predominantly underrepresented, in an expanded learning space to address learning disparities and campus-community needs. Her myriad of experiences has led her to her research and policy interest in early childhood initiatives, education equity, out-of-school time, family and community engagement, and youth development. She looks forward to addressing equity and advocating for early childhood education, the foundation for K-12.

Brandy Locchetta
Doctoral Student
Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Internship Placement: Department of Health and Human Services - Early Childhood Development

Brandy Locchetta is a behavior analyst and doctoral student in early childhood special education at Vanderbilt University. Brandy is from the metro Atlanta area where she spent more than 15 years building her career in early childhood education. Brandy has a wealth of experience across a variety of roles in early childhood from childcare teacher, to center director, and leadership positions at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning where she was central to the establishment and expansion of the Inclusion and Behavior Support program. Increasing equitable access to high-quality inclusive early learning environments for young children with disabilities and their families is central to Brandy’s policy and advocacy interests. In partnership with her interests in policy and advocacy, her research interests include teacher-implemented interventions that improve outcomes for all children and the support systems necessary to sustain implementation, barriers to preschool inclusion, disproportionate discipline practices in early childhood, and positive behavior supports.

Carlos Pérez Valle
Doctoral Student
Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, McGill University

Internship Placement: Start Early, Early Learning

Carlos Pérez Valle is a doctoral student in Communication Sciences & Disorders at McGill University in Montréal. His research interests include the development and acquisition of written language in diverse pediatric populations and the use of diverse children’s literature in clinical interventions. Through this research, he hopes to learn research skills that will help him advance innovative and equitable change.

Carlos Pérez Valle was born in Tulcingo de Valle, México and moved to New York City as a toddler. After high school, he became involved in promoting equitable educational opportunities for low-income and immigrant communities. He has worked for several nonprofit and government organizations such as the NYC Dept. of Education, Masa, The Parent-Child Home Program, Breakthrough New York, and various public and charter schools.

Ozden Pinar-Irmak
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Massachusetts Boston

Internship Placement: Department of Health and Human Services - Early Childhood Development

Ozden Pinar-Irmak is a doctoral candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Ozden received her M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. She has extensive experience working with young children in multicultural settings and she held various positions as a teacher, coordinator, and leader. Her research interests include early intervention programs for refugee and immigrant children, trauma-informed policies and practices in early childhood education, and international inclusive education. In particular, her works aim to promote equitable early care and education systems and increase access to early education services for young children of refugees and immigrants. She believes that inclusive, high-quality, equitable, and affordable early care and education for children can be achieved through long-term collaborations between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.


Briana Bostic
Doctoral Student
School of Education, Johns Hopkins University
Internship Placement: Office of Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Project: A policy brief titled “Enhancing the Provision of Early Care and Education in the Time of COVID-19” & a research brief titled “Improving Family Service Provision in Early Care and Education Settings”

Briana Bostic is a doctoral student at The Johns Hopkins School of Education. Her current research explores the relationship between school climate and student discipline outcomes in early care and education settings. Her broader interests include understanding how the socio-cultural/historical contexts of place influence how teachers and school leaders make meaning of their work. Her previous work focused on the persistence of segregation and the impact of civic unrest on aging adults in St. Louis. At the Center for the Social Organization of Schools, Briana assists the work of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools in their provision of “Promising Partnership Practices” to schools and districts internationally. She is a member of the WelLab, led by Lieny Jeon, Ph.D., which focuses on research related to teacher and student social-emotional well-being. She is also a member of the Poverty and Inequity Research Lab, led by Stefanie DeLuca, which focuses on investigating the consequences of systemic inequity in housing, education and other resources in cities. She serves as co-chair of the Ph.D. Students Committee. Prior to her doctoral work, Briana was a preschool teacher in Chicago and was selected by Leadership for Educational Equity to serve as a Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellow in the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Social and Emotional Learning.

Catherine Gonzalez
Doctoral Student
Community Research and Action Program, Vanderbilt University
Internship Placement: Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center
Policy Project: “Transforming Pre-K Learning Spaces: Five Reasons Dual Language Learning Matters for the Academic and Socioemotional Development of Latino Children” & “Analysis of DLL-Related Indicators in the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS)”

Catherine Gonzalez is a second-year PhD student in the Community Research and Action Program at Vanderbilt University. She is also completing a certificate in Latin American Studies. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with departmental honors and a certificate in Children and Society from the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. During her undergraduate years, Catherine assisted with research on the mental health and academic outcomes of Latinx bilingual adolescents, including relevant underlying social factors. At Vanderbilt, Catherine works alongside her advisor to investigate the role of supportive community, school, and home environments in the resilience of rural youth’s mental health and academic outcomes. Her research interests focus on systemic barriers to equitable education and interventions that alleviate the effects of stigma and marginalization in racial and ethnic minority children and youth.

Darielle Blevins, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Children's Equity Project, Arizona State University
Internship Placement: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
Project: A research brief titled “Black Girls in Early Learning Spaces” & a resource guide for early educators

Dr. Darielle Blevins is a postdoctoral research scholar with the Children’s Equity Project where her goal is to use an intersectional approach to elevate communities’ voices in research to inform policy. Grounded in Black Feminist ways of knowing, Dr. Blevins’ work centers the need for love, equity, and justice, to ensure quality learning spaces in early childhood and beyond. She earned her Ph.D. in Education from San Diego State University and Claremont University and was named Outstanding Graduate of the Year.

Her dissertation on Black girlhood in education centered the voices of Black middle school girls as they envisioned their inner selves and the self their teacher saw using self-portraits. She is particularly concerned about the relationship between power, culture, and identity development in the classroom context. Methodologically, she is interested in mixed methods with visual methodologies that provide an opportunity for children, who are usually acted upon, to express themselves and use their power. She has impacted the field of Child Development and early learning through her work as a preschool teacher, behavior specialist, and quality improvement coach. Through one- on-one coaching and behavioral support training for hundreds of parents and educators in San Diego County, she has provided educators with tools to engage in anti-bias, culturally responsive, and developmentally appropriate practice.

Meredith Dentes Powers, M.Ed.
Doctoral Student
Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia Meredith
Internship Placement: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation,  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Project: “Compendium of Culturally Responsive Practice Measurement Tools”

Meredith Powers is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Virginia studying Clinical-School Psychology under the research mentorship of Dr. Catherine Bradshaw. She earned a Combined B.S./M.Ed. in Special Education and was named a Teacher of Promise by the Maryland State Department of Education prior to working as a public-school special educator.

Meredith has extensive experience conducting classroom observations from her role as Research Coordinator at Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC. As a doctoral student, she serves as a Student Leader for the National Association of School Psychologists and Graduate Fellow for the UVA Power, Violence and Inequality Collective. Meredith’s research explores how teachers’ cultural responsivity can address power-based differences between students and teachers to promote equitable instruction and enhance the classroom experience of racially minoritized students. In line with the Children’s Equity Project, her work aims to make a positive impact on critical societal issues including reducing educational disparities and improving equity and fairness in early childhood (PreK-5) classrooms. As a part of the Start with Equity Fellowship, Meredith hopes to extend her work using the Double Check cultural responsiveness framework (Hershfeldt et al., 2009) to make meaningful connections between research, policy, and practice.

William L. White Jr., M.Ed., Ed.S.
Doctoral Candidate
Early Childhood Special Education, University of Washington
Internship Placement:
Child Care Aware of America
Project: A Literature Review on Access to Gifted Education for Black Students & “Using Voice to inform Policy on the Impact of Black Male teachers in Early Childhood Education”

William L. White Jr.  hails from Fredericksburg, VA and is a doctoral candidate in early childhood special education at the University of Washington. William received his B.A. in political science/pre-law and his M.Ed. in special education from Virginia State University located in Petersburg, VA. William also holds an Ed.S. in Early Childhood Special Education from The Graduate School of Education & Human Development at The George Washington University. William worked as a special education teacher for ten years with experience in both Virginia and Washington, D.C. Currently, William is the co-designer and Director of My Brother’s Teacher which works to increase the presence of Black and Brown males in early childhood education. He also continues to provide pro-bono special education consulting to families of students in the Washington, D.C., and the Seattle area.