PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Elizabeth Burke Bryant is stepping down as executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count after 28 years.

RI Kids Count is an independent non-profit organization that was founded in 1994. Their mission has been focused on improving the health, education, safety, economic well-being, and development of children in Rhode Island.

Bryant has been there since the start, but recently announced she will be stepping down at the end of the year.

“I just have real excitement because I’m so excited for the organization’s future,” she said. “Everything here is a team effort.

Successful leaders rely on strong support from their team, and Bryant says she has just that.

“I’m very proud of the fact that Rhode Island is now 4th best in the country for the percentage of our children that have health insurance coverage,” she explained. “We went from about 12% of uninsured when Kids Count started, down to only about 2% now.”

“To also help design what is ranked the number one best quality Pre-K program in the country,” she added. “We share number one with a couple of other states but we are very proud of that.”

Bryant says their focus every year is equity and has been from the start. She told 12 News that when they release their data each year there are, “unacceptable and persistent disparities by race ethnicity and income throughout our indicators and our factbook.”

The organization also focuses on children living in poverty.

“There are 32,000 children living below the federal poverty line of about $19,000 a year for a family of 3 and those children do worse in all of our indicators because economic well-being is at the core,” Bryant said. “So we have many kids that are living in poverty that excel and do wonderfully but there are too many kids that are being left behind.”

Bryant says in her time with the organization, she is most proud of being a child advocate.

“I don’t think that is suddenly something you flip a switch and that knowledge makes me very confident that there will be other ways that I can contribute in a different way,” she said.

Paige Clausius-Parks will be taking over as the organization’s next executive director starting Dec. 1. She’s been with RI Kids Count for the last four years working as a senior policy analyst.