A few months into her EP Fellowship, Kimberlin Butler sat in the same small room in the White House with a number of her personal heroes, including Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; and Acting Education Secretary John King.
She had worked hard to earn a seat at that table, including serving for 13 years in various roles in public education, public affairs, and philanthropy to help change outcomes for vulnerable children. Her own experience made her realize the importance of education.
“I grew up in a single parent home, and there was power in my personal experience and growing up seeing friends have very different life outcomes because of the educational opportunities (not) afforded to them. Now, I want to work on behalf of vulnerable children everywhere because I know the difference that education makes—and that I can be an advocate for change,” she says.
As a Teach For America middle school social studies teacher in Southwest Atlanta, Kimberlin led 100% of her students to pass the Georgia CRCT high-stakes test. Later, she served as community relations manager for a nonprofit improving the lives of more than 4,000 inner city youth at-risk in Atlanta.
She also worked for The Zeist Foundation—a family foundation making place-based investments in Atlanta’s children, youth and families—and as the program and network manager for Grantmakers for Education, the largest national network of funders, including private philanthropies, community foundations and corporate giving programs, working to improve student achievement and opportunities in education reform.
In 2015, Kimberlin became an EP Fellow to gain a powerful network to drive collective action and impact, and immerse herself in current national trends and efforts happening across the sector. “The Fellowship offered a compelling opportunity to access a high-impact career in education reform and philanthropy,” she says.
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As an EP Fellow, Kimberlin served as a relationship manager in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Innovation and Improvement, where she led strategy and operations as part of a newly launched Place-Based Initiatives Pilot Team (including the Advisory Committee of federal senior political and career leadership), and played an integral role in advancing the White House Community Solutions agenda and driving education collective impact strategies for the Obama Administration.
In her role, she explored numerous opportunities for ED to closely partner with communities to deepen their collective impact in education and other areas contributing to the success of children and youth.
Kimberlin has convened critical stakeholders to drive education reform in the Twin Cities, MN; Pine Ridge, SD; and Indianola, MS. She also represented ED in interagency conversations and advised the Office of Strategic Partnerships on opportunities exploring public-private partnerships with philanthropy to help advance the vision of (then) Education Secretary Arne Duncan and current Acting Secretary John King.
Her work has been tied to her experience with place-based philanthropy, which she hopes to do more of in the future to invest in meaningful community partnerships that will make a difference for the children who need it most.
Read more from Kimberlin: Why We Must See Ourselves at the Table (and How to Get There)