Seattle's Child

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Photo courtesy Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families

Tribal early learning champion| Unsung Hero

Nigel Lawrence's tireless work exemplifies the five pillars of strengthening families

Seattle’s Child is proud to partner with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families Strengthening Families Washington to honor outstanding caregivers doing important work on behalf of children. Throughout February, we’ll introduce you to Unsung Heroes from around the state: biological parents, grandparents, foster and adoptive parents. Some volunteer at local schools; some have started nonprofits; some mentor others in their communities. Enjoy the stories of 2024’s unsung heroes. 

NOTE: Seattle’s Child is running these stories unedited, as written by the people who nominated them, in keeping with the DCYF Unsung Hero process.

Nigel Lawrence

Washington’s Tribal communities, deeply rooted in family and tradition, prioritize teaching young ones their ancestral ways. Early learning programs, though vital for health, family support, and education, often lack the resources to meet their unique cultural needs.

Enter Nigel, a passionate advocate who convened tribal early learning directors in 2022.

Throughout the year, he diligently met with them, tribes, and community members, shaping a proposal for a groundbreaking Tribal Early Learning Fund (TELF). Nigel spearheads this effort, tirelessly engaging communities, tribes, lobbyists, and lawmakers. He championed TELF’s emphasis on language revitalization, culturally sensitive mental health support, nutritious indigenous meals, culturally relevant books and materials, and enriching experiences like storytelling, drumming, and traditional arts.

In 2023, thanks to Nigel’s leadership, the Governor proposed and the Legislature approved $7.5 million for TELF, a monumental achievement impacting nearly 4,000 tribal children.

Nigel’s tireless work aligns perfectly with the five pillars of strengthening families, making him an unsung hero. He didn’t just advocate for his own but opened doors for thousands of children across Washington to access culturally relevant early learning and strengthen their protective factors. His humility in the face of such impact only amplifies his heroism.

—April Messenger

More Unsung Heroes:

This dad is all about inclusivity

One outstanding leader

Kinship Care wonder

Mom’s unwavering commitment

She’s chosen to care

About the Author

Seattle Child Staff