Finding Jay Wolf: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

“I’d just like to make one thing clear; there is nothing unique about me,” said Jay Wolf.

As a third-generation cattle rancher and proponent for excellent early childhood programs, Jay is occasionally seen as a non-traditional supporter.

He assures us that he is not.

Still, sometimes the stereotypes persist. For some, early childhood education advocates are assumed to be overwhelming female, mothers, educators, and social workers. 

At our Thriving Children conference, this demographic was pervasive. But we wholeheartedly believe Jay, which leads us to a compelling question: how do we find more people like him? 

Jay said that people like him can be found throughout Nebraska.  

A passionate and thoughtful leader for quality child programs, Jay insists he is one of many diverse people who are invested in the same mission.

“Our leadership includes businesspeople, agricultural producers -we all get it. We weren’t just social workers and educators,” he said.  

So, it seems along with challenging the stereotype, Jay also works to produce an actionable change in Boone County.

Although there may be nothing unique about Jay, we seek to understand what motivated him to become involved in early childcare. In the beginning phases, Jay said that when his community began to establish an early childhood program, they encountered challenges. 

Luckily, a woman who was an early childcare expert – a rare, yet important profession – replaced the ambiguity. 

The overall reservation, said Jay, was that an incorrectly executed program would be “a loser.” But Jay and his community remained optimistic.

“They don’t have to be losers if they’re done right,” he said. 

From there, the community began to strategize an early childcare center. They faced some of the usual challenges, including being unable to pay a living wage.

“We need to be realistic about this,” said Jay. “Young parents in this area cannot do this,” he said, concerning paying high fees for early childcare programs. So, Jay and the community took the reins and decided that where there’s a will, there’s a desire to succeed.

Many people find reward in educating young children. Although Jay said these childcare positions do not pay a living wage, they offer other perks including flexible hours, weekends and holidays off.

“Socialization is so important. Early childhood differs from early childcare – kids need socialization, they need to learn how to learn. Kids with those skills in place have such an advantage,” said Jay.

Meanwhile, though there may be nothing unique about Jay Wolf, the question remains: where else can we find Jay Wolf? 

Are we looking in the wrong places, or are these supporters in plain sight?

As we scan the tawny sandhills, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for other people like Jay.

If you know someone or are someone like Jay Wolf, then learn more about our early childhood initiatives here.

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

Posted in Early Childhood

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