Dr. Leah Austin is an accomplished, multi-faceted and visionary leader who has been working on behalf of Black children and their families for over two decades. Leah began her career as a public school teacher in southeast DC teaching kindergarten and first grade. More than “just” a teacher, she found herself working with parents to ensure their children received the resources they were due while butting up against a system that wanted to prematurely label them. Forever the educator and advocate she went on to work for several nonprofit and philanthropic organizations over her career. In fact, Leah credits the summers she spent outside of the classroom interning at the National Black Child Development Institute as both giving her a solid grounding in the intersections of policy, practice and programs and an unwavering commitment to asset-based framing of Black children and their families.
Leah has enjoyed a dynamic career that has included teaching, grantmaking, organizing, research and evaluation. She is an educator, an advocate and a futurist working to create conditions that allow people to imagine and plan better futures. Her professional trajectory includes leadership positions with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Southern Education Foundation, Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs and most recently the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
In each of these organizations she helped to accomplish great things by overseeing efforts to advance educational equity in the South, managing an investment portfolio designed to increase the education achievement of students in Atlanta, GA, providing language and literacy resources to teachers and families, establishing a national literacy campaign encouraging reading between boys and men, working on grassroots organizing efforts to successfully advocate for universal prekindergarten legislation in Washington DC and strengthening the education justice movement by providing research, policy analysis and funding as well advocating within philanthropy to increase investments that support racial justice in education.
Leah is also passionate about her own learning, she holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Fisk University, a Master’s degree in School Psychology from Howard University and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Pennsylvania. She recently obtained a certificate in Strategic Foresight from the University of Houston. Lastly but far from least she is the mother of an energetic and insightful son.