April 1, 2020 By CDHD Melissa Crist Chosen as Statewide Ambassador Melissa Crist will serve as a statewide "ambassador" to spearhead use of the DEC Recommended Practices for the care and education of young children with disabilities. Melissa Crist, Director of IdahoSTARS Programs at the Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development, is among 22 newly selected aPRy Ambassadors chosen to bring awareness and support to the dissemination and use of the DEC Recommended Practices (RPs) and the associated resources and tools. Ambassadors now reside in 24 states. Melissa says, “As an aRPy Ambassador, I plan to expand knowledge and use of the DEC Recommended Practices across multiple early childhood sectors in Idaho, including EI and ECSE. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow ambassadors, and state early childhood partners, as we work to improve outcomes for children with or at-risk of developmental delays and disabilities and their families through implementation of the DEC Recommended Practices.” The aRPy Ambassador Initiative represents a unique partnership between the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children and the Region B Parent Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Parent to Parent of Georgia. The partners contributed to the processes of selecting, preparing and supporting professionals from across the country who act as aRPy Ambassadors. Through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, the ECTA Center developed a suite of free resources and videos – starring the animated spokesperson 'aRPy' for whom the project is named – to help practitioners and families apply these recommended practices to developmental interventions in everyday routines and settings involving children and families. The ambassadors form an international cohort with knowledge of evidence-based practices, professional development and training, and their state's early childhood services and practitioner networks. Not only will ambassadors collaborate with one another to develop and share strategies and resources, but each will develop and implement goals aimed at improving outcomes for young children and their families. 2016's inaugural group of ambassadors were instrumental in helping to design, document, and make recommendations for supporting this new group of ambassadors to disseminate materials nationally. The group will meet in person with ECTA in April 2020 to receive training and support, including a toolkit to use in their activities. Melissa and her fellow "aRPy Ambassadors" are professionals from organizations, including OSEP funded Parent Training Information Centers, state agencies and universities, who are working on behalf of children with disabilities birth through age 5 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. BIO: Melissa Crist, M.S. is the Director of IdahoSTARS Programs at the Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development, the state University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). IdahoSTARS houses the majority of quality initiatives in early care and education for the state of Idaho, including the state Quality Rating and Improvement System, the state Child Care Resource and Referral network, childcare licensing and subsidy support, and the state early childhood professional development system. Melissa has over 15 years of experience in a variety of early childhood focused roles, including inclusive early care and education and early intervention. In addition to her aRPy Ambassador role, Melissa also serves as the CDC’s Act Early Ambassador to Idaho supporting implementation of developmental monitoring and screening statewide.