The Research Institute at WOU

Center on Early Learning & Youth Development

Center on Early Learning and Youth Development (CELYD) works to improve the quality of care and education available to all children and their families in order to promote optimal development and full inclusion in their family, community and society through:

  • Research, development and demonstration of effective practices and innovative models of care and education.
  • Professional development, technical assistance and dissemination of effective practices and innovative models of service to practitioners in the fields of Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education.
  • Systems change and policy development in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education that creates access to quality service and promotes positive outcomes for young children and families at the local, state and national level.
Click here to view CELYD center workgroups.

CELYD's Statement of Solidarity

We at the Center on Early Learning and Youth Development (CELYD) at The Research Institute at Western Oregon University mourn over the recent horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other Black Americans. These violent acts were built upon hundreds of years of racism and are the culmination of insidious systemic racism in our society. Our Black communities continue to be victims of violence and inequality. We raise our voice alongside those calling to dismantle structural racism and white supremacy.

We need to recognize and dismantle the systems of bias that provide privilege to some and are unjust to others. That means committing, individually and collectively, again and again to reflect and grapple with the racism in ourselves, our organization, and our society. We are empowering our staff to: 1) recognize personal biases, 2) talk about, 3) confront, and 4) respond to racism in our workplace, homes, neighborhoods, and communities. We are listening to our Black Student Union and taking a stance against systemic racism, police brutality, and the weaponizing of white privilege.

On behalf of our center we pledge to stand in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, we stand with the Black communities we serve through our contracts, including early childhood educators, children, and families, and together we say: Black Lives Matter.

Center Projects

Oregon Pre-Kindergarten (OPK) Extended Duration Playbook

OPK Extended Duration Playbook  is meant to help future grantees implement effective practices for children, their families, and the teaching teams in extended duration classrooms. The Playbook will provide recommendations for effective practices and resources to support grantees. In addition to the lessons learned from the Extended Duration pilot, the OPK Playbook also includes the recommendations from the Early Education Essentials report.

Find Child Care Oregon

One of the most important decisions your family will ever make is choosing child care. The Finding Quality Child Care: A Guide for Oregon's Families provides information, resources, and guidance to help you to make the best decision when choosing a child care program that meets the needs of your family.

Central Coordination of Child Care Resources and Referral

Central Coordination of Child Care Resource and Referral provides leadership and technical assistance for 15 CCR&R programs serving all counties in Oregon. Our mission includes supporting families and early childhood child care and education providers in meaningful and responsive ways.

Spark: Oregon's Quality Rating Improvement System Revision Process

Oregon's Spark is a program that raises the quality and consistency of child care and early learning programs across the state. The Quality Rating System recognizes, rewards and builds on what early learning and development programs are already doing well. It helps ensure children in Spark programs are ready for kindergarten by connecting programs and providers with free tools, financial incentives and professional advice that they can put into practice with confidence.

Center Staff

Hannah Anonson

Hannah Anonson

Early Learning Project Specialist

Hannah Anonson is the Early Learning Project Specialist at TRI since March 2015. She earned her degree at Western Oregon University in Geography and Communications. Hannah's primary expertise in Oregon's Quality Rating and Improvement System, Central Coordination of Child Care Resource and Referral and NaccrrAware.


Cheri Freedman

Cheri Freedman

Database Specialist / Information Systems Analyst

Cheri Freedman has worked for the Center on Early Learning since 2014 in different roles and is currently a Database Specialist and Information Systems Analyst. She earned her Bachelors of Business Administration in Operations Management at The University of Houston in Texas and completed her Masters of Science in Management and Information Systems from Western Oregon University. Her primary expertise is in Data Analysis, Systems Development, and Project Management. She has over 20 years of experience providing support to different industries including telecommunications, universities, community healthcare, and the federal government.


Debbie Gougér

Debbie Gougér

Early Childhood Project Specialist

Debbie has worked at The Research Institute since 1996. She came to TRI after graduating from WOU with a B.S. in business and working for 6 years in the staffing industry. She was originally hired as the office manager, but since 2003 has been in the Center on Early Learning and Youth Development as a project specialist. She enjoys the challenges that come with making impactful systems changes. Helping to develop the processes, routines, procedures and forms that enable this important to be completed efficiently and effectively is her specialty.


Robyn Lopez Melton

Robyn Lopez Melton

Director, Center on Early Learning and Youth Development/Spark and CCR&R Director

Robyn Lopez Melton is the Coordinator of the Center on Early Learning and Youth Development at The Research Institute at Western Oregon University where she Co-Directs Spark, Oregon’s Quality Rating and Improvement System and the state coordination of Oregon’s Child Care Resource and Referral system. Robyn currently serves Chair of the NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council and Past-President of OregonAEYC.She has worked in early learning for over 15 years. Her areas of expertise include working with monolingual Spanish speaking families, young children with multiple risk factors, parent education and Quality Rating and Improvement Systems. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from OSU Cascades campus with two BA degrees, Liberal Studies and International Studies and received her MSEd from WOU in 2018. In 2015, she was recognized by ExchangePress as an Exceptional Emerging Leader in Early Childhood Education. Robyn is also the mother of 2 and a licensed Zumba instructor.


Beryl Neequaye

Beryl Neequaye

Evaluation and Data Specialist

Dr. Beryl Neequaye is an Evaluation and Data Specialist with the Center on Evaluation, Technology & Research (CETR) at TRI. Beryl earned her Master’s in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Educational Research and Evaluation with an emphasis on mixed methods and methodology from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Beryl’s expertise is in program evaluation, mixed methods research, and understanding African immigrant populations in the U.S.A.

During Beryl’s graduate studies, she took on both administrative and academic positions at Ohio University. She was assigned various positions in managing grant funded research with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Beryl also worked as a program evaluation/research assistant with the Community Health, Prevention and Promotion Team in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. In addition to these roles, she served as a teaching assistant for graduate research courses at the masters and doctoral level in both Educational Studies and Higher Education departments.

Beryl has variety of research interests, including a recent study into understanding parental involvement among Ghanaian immigrants in the U.S.A. She also conducted a methodological research into understanding the mixed methods reporting quality in published comparative and international education journals as part of her dissertation work.

When not working, Beryl enjoys watching movies, reading, cooking, and traveling to new places.


Amy Rizo

Amy Rizo

Early Learning Project Communication Specialist

Amy Rizo works at the Center on Early Learning and Youth Development at TRI as an Early Learning Project Communication Specialist for Spark, Oregon’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Amy has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Art and Art History from Western Oregon University. She has extensive experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations, visual communication, and advocating for equitable practices and cultural awareness.


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