Tyler James Williams on amplifying the importance of early childcare and education, partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

TheGrio caught up with the "Abbott Elementary" star, who shared what the collaboration with the foundation means to him and how he hopes to support the younger generation.

Tyler James Williams and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation have teamed up. The “Abbott Elementary” star has joined a “storytelling campaign” with the foundation launched at the 2023 Essence Festival of Culture, an effort dubbed Every Child Thrives, in which the actor will elevate stories and firsthand accounts on the importance of early childhood care and education.

Founded in 1930 by cereal innovator Will Keith Kellogg, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is an independent, private foundation on a mission, its website says, to administer “funds for the promotion of the welfare, comfort, health, education, feeding, clothing, sheltering and safeguarding of children and youth, directly or indirectly, without regard to sex, race, creed or nationality.” For Williams, impacting childhood education was something he had been “ruminating on” for the last few years before the opportunity presented itself.

“Abbott Elementary” star Tyler James Williams and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation have teamed up for a campaign in which he will elevate stories and firsthand accounts on the importance of early childhood care and education. (Photo by The W.K. Kellogg Foundation)

“Not having kids, it’s not something that I thought about a lot until it was in front of my face,” Williams explained to us. “As I heard about some of the inequities that had been going on the educational system, there was this kind of feeling of powerlessness and also hopelessness, like there was nothing I could really do to affect this, but it’s something that is open enough of a reality that people can resonate with it when they see it.”

“As an artist, particularly an artist with a platform, part of my job is to amplify those voices,” added the former child star, “and to tell those stories, so this was a very easy yes for me.”

La June Montgomery Tabron, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, spoke about Williams’ involvement in their efforts and the importance of positive role models for children.

“Tyler’s work has been a way to amplify how we see the systems that support children,” she said, “and some of the urban districts where children don’t have access to every intervention and where it’s not an equal playing field.”

“We are trying to make sure people see these gaps and that we address these gaps so that every child has an opportunity to thrive,” Tabron added. “I know the difference between my own journey and the difference between some of my neighbors growing up is just the difference of access and opportunity.”

Even though he does not have children, Williams discussed the responsibility of helping to shape and support the next generation, even if we aren’t parents ourselves.

“We are having kids later than any previous generation,” he noted, “however, it does not mean that we don’t have a job to do here and that we don’t have to assist and be involved in this process.”

Williams also discussed how the Kellogg Foundation has opened his eyes to childhood development, not only in pivotal moments as the youngster gets older, but in supporting the communities surrounding the child from their mother’s pregnancy.

“It looks at childhood development from the very development of the child,” Williams explained. “We need to talk about structuring and supporting the next generation and the assistance to parents as well. Parents aren’t intentionally negligent, you know what I mean? Survival and taking care of the child is the priority.”

His lack of offspring just means his personal focus is on other kinfolk, his peer-like loved ones who faced their own share of challenges as young people.

“I think about my cousins and family members when I think about something like this,” admitted Williams. “I think about them and what the reality was for them growing up, and there’s simply not enough support. One of the things that is very pivotal here in what I learned most from this is supporting the development of the child from the beginning and not just when the stakes are really high.”

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