Portia Kennel is a strategic visionary leader in the early childhood field Portia has been a champion for quality early learning focused on closing the opportunity gap for our youngest children.

In 2015 after years of partnering with philanthropic organizations to build and launch innovative early childhood programs, Portia Kennel joined the Buffett Early Childhood Fund to serve as a senior advisor to the foundation. During her tenure at the foundation Portia led efforts to develop family engagement program models that empower parents as a force for change in their families, schools, and communities.

Before joining the foundation in 2015, she worked as the Senior Vice President for Program Innovation at Start Early (formerly, Ounce of Prevention Fund) in Chicago. Portia has more than 30 years of experience designing, implementing, and scaling effective, evidence-based early childhood education and family support program models for children and their families. In 2000, she developed and led the implementation of the first Educare School, (early learning and care program) serving Chicago’s south side.

As the founding Executive Director of the Educare Learning Network, Portia led the national expansion of Educare to a diverse range of communities across America. Portia also directed the team that created the framework and program components of the Educare model of intensive family engagement (IFE). The IFE training and professional development builds professionals’ capacity to employ intentional practices that support building strong relationships with families.

As a former Head Start Director/Administrator, her work is grounded in an understanding of early childhood development, teaching practices, family systems and clinical issues related to working with families in under resourced communities. Portia holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois and is a Zero to Three Fellow. In addition, Portia is the 2020 recipient of the Global MindED Inclusive Leader Award in Early Childhood. She serves on a variety of boards and task forces including Raising a Reader (raisingareader.org), the Parent Family Voice Steering Committee for the Head Start National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement and the National Advisory Council for the Rapid Survey Project, at the Stanford Center on Early Childhood. She also serves as a member of the Foundations Inc. Advisory Board. (foundationsinc.org)

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