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Boston Marathon spotlight: McSweeney a champion for children

by | Apr 6, 2023 | Featured, Featured: Features

Kyla McSweeney

Kyla McSweeney stands in front of the Spirit of the Marathon statue in Hopkinton.

Kyla McSweeney walks the talk when it comes to her belief in the importance of high-quality early education for all.

Originally from Connecticut, McSweeney went to Wheelock College in Boston and majored in early childhood education. After graduating, she found a job as a Head Start preschool teacher, then as a teacher at a childcare center at Harvard Business School while getting her master’s degree.

“Most development happens within the first five years of life,” McSweeney said. “I love seeing the process as young children develop and learn.”

McSweeney obtained a degree in leadership and policy in early care and education from Wheelock. Then, while working at the Massachusetts Department of Education, she went to law school. After receiving her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in 2003, she got a fellowship to work on childcare issues in the law, and then did special education law for a year.

She’s held director-level positions at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and at Quinsigamond Community College as well as Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Presently, she’s the director of comprehensive system supports at Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. A nonprofit educational leader, her experience spans policy analysis, grant management, fundraising, community outreach and program development.

McSweeney has devoted her lengthy and impressive career to early childhood education. This year, she’ll go a step further and run the Boston Marathon to benefit Horizons for Homeless Children (givengain.com/ap/kyla-mcsweeney-raising-funds-for-horizons-for-homeless-children).

This will be her first marathon.

Seeking a good school system and an environment close to both family and nature, McSweeney moved from Boston to Hopkinton with her husband, James Burton, in 2007. They have a son, Quinn, age 13, and daughter, Sierra, age 10.

McSweeney said she ran a bit in her early 30s but had never been an “athlete.” After having children, she wanted to be more active, so she joined the Hopkinton Running Club’s Couch to 5K program in 2019.

“I met a lot of friends through that group, as well as Moms Run This Town,” she shared. “We’re working moms who meet in the morning and run before work, and it’s nice to have that time to chitchat and bond with other people while getting some exercise, too. … It makes you feel good throughout the day.” She’s since completed a 5K, a 10K and two half-marathons.

McSweeney became acquainted with Horizons for Homeless Children when she was working as a preschool teacher and babysat a student whose family was attending Horizons’ annual gala.

“Horizons has been a leader in Massachusetts in making early education accessible for so many children as well as making a difference in the lives of families,” she wrote on her fundraising page.

Horizons for Homeless Children provides high-quality early education and operates one of the state’s top-ranked early education programs, placing children on the path to school success. It also has a Playspace Program to provide opportunities for play to children living in shelters.

McSweeney noted the organization offers good wraparound services, including family support and parenting programs that give families upward economic mobility.

“It’s just a really great, comprehensive program that meets the needs of some of the children who most need it in Massachusetts,” she said.

Horizons’ vision is that “every homeless child will have the opportunity to learn, play and thrive.” McSweeney believes that’s important not just for those who receive Horizons’ services, but for society as a whole.

“I feel strongly that our economy, our world, revolves around a good early education and care system,” she said. “We need a strong system that allows kids to be cared for so that parents can work and kids can thrive and grow and do better in school.”

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