(L-r): Windham Mayor Ernie Eldridge, Director of Windham Willimantic Child Care Center Michalene Bedard, Rep. Mae Flexer, Sen. Don Williams, Director of Outreach and Advocacy for the CT Early Childhood Alliance Samantha Dynowski and Executive Director of the Windham Regional Community Council Jeff Beadle. Contributed photo. (Picasa / July 30, 2014)

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is recognizing 25 state legislators for making Connecticut's young children and their families a priority this session.

Each year, the Alliance seeks nominees from its membership, taking into account active assistance during the legislative session on issues that are of interest to the membership, as well as availability and access for constituents. This year's nominees proved they put young children front and center as they shaped legislation and engaged with early childhood advocates to create the most effective early childhood policy for Connecticut.

"For years, we've worked with legislators to make early childhood a priority issue, both at the Capitol and in the districts, and we're seeing results of that work," said Karen Rainville, CT Early Childhood Alliance co-chair and the executive director of CT Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC). "The Children's Champions stepped up this year for their young constituents."

The Legislator of the Year for 2014 was Rep. Michelle Cook (D-65). On July 30, at Windham Willimantic Child Care, Sen. Donald Williams Jr. (D-29) and Rep. Mae Flexer (D-44) were named Children's Champions.

"It's a great honor to receive this Children's Champions award," said Flexer. "I think this year in the legislature we made tremendous investments in early childhood. [We're] making sure that all children in Connecticut will have access to a quality preschool experience, no matter their circumstances."

In June, the town of Killinngly, in Flexer's district, received 35 of the 1,020 additional school readiness slots authorized by the state.

"For me, early childhood is not just a state program, it's a commitment to great prenatal care. It's a commitment to our early childhood education centers, like the one here in Windham and throughout Northeastern Connecticut and our state," said Williams. "[It's a commitment to] family resource centers, which have done so much for children and include parents. Anything we can do to give our children a better opportunity for their future is well worth it," said Williams.

For more information about the CT Early Childhood Alliance, go to http://www.earlychildhoodalliance.com.