One City Early Learning Centers has announced today that Marilyn Ruffin has joined its staff as the new Director of Family and Community Initiatives.

“I was looking for somebody who is very connected in the community and can navigate the community well … and that is Marilyn,” One City Early Learning Center CEO Kaleem Caire tells Madison365. “I also wanted somebody who is a symbol of a good parent and someone who has raised some talented children and has gone through the challenges of doing that in Dane County and truly understands what our families are dealing with.”

One City Early Learning Center's graduates pose for a picture. (Photo by Marcus Miles)
One City Early Learning Center’s graduates pose for a picture.
(Photo by Marcus Miles)

One City Early Learning Center provides affordable, accessible, and high-quality preschool that partners with parents and the community to prepare young children for school success. Located in the heart of the south side of Madison, one of the most racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods in Wisconsin, One City has a two-generation community impact model to build stability in families to ultimately cultivate healthy and successful children.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Ruffin has lived in the Madison area with her husband, Jerry, for the last 27 years where she has raised three children. Ruffin is currently an elected member of the Sun Prairie School Board and the first African-American elected to serve in this capacity in Sun Prairie’s history. She has also served as a substitute teacher in the Madison and Sun Prairie school districts and has volunteered her leadership and expertise with several important community boards and organizations in both cities.

“Marilyn has always been heavily involved with our community and she’s always volunteered her time. She has a lot of business acumen and she’s not afraid to reach out and engage people,” Caire adds. “She has a really welcoming demeanor. Nobody has a problem talking to Marilyn about anything.”

In her new role, Ruffin will lead One City’s work with the Families and Schools Together, Inc. (FAST) program, develop partnerships that open doors to opportunities for One City families and assist Caire and the Ready By 5 Campaign Committee with its fundraising efforts.

“We’re doing something different here at One City. We’re trying to open up Madison to our families. We want them to be able to experience the Overture, experience the lakes, experience the arts and much more for our families. Marilyn will oversee the FAST program which is really at the core of our efforts to strengthen bonds between parents and their children and parents and our school,” Caire says. “She will also be engaging businesses and the community and supporting me in development. She will have an important role at One City.”

Ruffin is a former electrical engineer, project manager and business executive with U.S. Cellular, the fifth largest wireless telecommunications company in the United States. She held various roles there from 2000 to 2014 before making a career change to education. Ruffin is very active in the Madison community volunteering with Madison Chapter of The Links, Inc., Madison Network of Black Professionals and Black Women’s Wellness and as a member of the board of directors for the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund.

“To be in an impactful position to shape our young children and to help our families succeed is the ultimate reward for me,” Ruffin tells Madison365 about her new position.