United 4 Children’s annual Building the Preschool to Promise Pipeline Conference aims to disrupt the preschool to prison pipeline by providing education and resources needed to build equity in early childhood education. United 4 Children’s annual conference offers early childhood educators in the region an opportunity to receive professional development that is Missouri clock-hour approved. The conference also will be open to all community members interested in learning more about early childhood education’s key role in building a promising future for our community. United 4 Children is pleased to introduce this year’s keynote speaker: Dr. Jonathan Spikes. 

Dr. Jonathan Spikes is a licensed mental health counselor, chief executive officer, and founder of the Affirming Youth Foundation, Incorporated. In 2020, Spikes launched a strategic plan: A new paradigm to serve as a connector of services that strengthen schools, families, and communities. Dr. Spikes’ aim was to improve student learning by increasing family engagement, promoting community engagement through capacity building, and developing leaders through collaboration with institutions of higher learning.

As a first-generation college graduate, his work focuses on implementing social and structurally focused transformational change. His commitment to this began when he was a 6-year-old boy. He witnessed his older brother get shot in the leg when he was simply returning from taking out the trash. Dr. Spikes would encounter another violent event fifteen years later when he stood as a witness to his brother’s corpse lying in the street. These two events and years of experiencing other forms of community violence exposure resulted in years of enduring emotional and psychological trauma.

Dr. Spikes recognized that he had to be involved in addressing these experiences beyond his personal efforts; this led him back to graduate school, where he gained research expertise in methodical tools associated with leading and managing innovation and change. Through his work, Dr. Spikes seeks to develop multi-level and transformative solutions that holistically address the most pressing needs of low-resource communities. His research focuses on various forms of community violence, including gang violence, community trauma, and child victimization. The strategies for reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences and their associated outcomes in his local community have been lauded as novel in their targeting of ecological influences.

The success of Dr. Spikes’ work is clear. To date, Affirming Youth has received over $6 million in grants from public and private funders under his leadership. His ability to successfully bring together research and community partners results from his commitment to civic and moral imperatives that benefit all members of the community. Although he has focused primarily on Miami communities, his work has gained statewide and national attention. Dr. Spikes has been an invited speaker for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Gang Center, the Los Angeles Police Department, St. Louis Missouri’s United 4 Children, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College, among others.

Dr. Spikes earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University, a master’s degree in Education-Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lamar University, and a doctorate degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

For more information about United 4 Children’s conference, please visit United4Children.org/BPPP.