Tonja currently serves as the Program Director for Early Childhood Success in the Institute for Youth Education and Families at the National League of Cities. She is responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of the Institute’s work plans and long-term strategies for early education. She conceptualizes and leads efforts to identify and document best practices and promising initiatives, oversees the implementation of TA, and contributes to the overall management of the Institute, including strategic planning, coordination of cross-program initiatives, and identification and cultivation of prospective funders. Tonja works directly with mayors, city councilmembers, and other municipal officials in creating local systems of support for parents, children, and youth in their communities. 

By helping cities develop the necessary local infrastructure and providing concrete ideas and tools for policy and programmatic action, a significant number of cities and towns have positioned themselves as models for investing in children’s healthy growth and development. 

Prior to joining the NLC team, Tonja served as Transition Coordinator for Baltimore City Head Start and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland College Park. She serves on a variety of boards and committees, supporting and advising national and local work for young children. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland College Park and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College.