Seminar: Women & Public Policy (1995)
Occupation: Executive Director, Co-Founder, Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
Education: MA, Social Work, The Catholic University of America; BA, Social Work, St. Catherine University (A PLEN Member School)
After growing up in a Wisconsin town of just 200 people, Jamila Larson boarded a Greyhound bus 14 years ago to move to the Nation’s Capitol where she knew no one.
“I didn’t really have the connections or experience in the small town I was from. It wasn’t until PLEN that I was introduced to Washington and walked through how I could fit in, live and work here and make an impact,” Larson said. She credited her PLEN experience for giving her the “opportunity to envision a life of service” and the self-assurance to move to Washington.
Following an internship at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), an organization she visited during the PLEN Women & Public Policy Seminar in 1995, Larson worked for the CDF full time before pursuing her Masters degree. While organizing an employee toy drive at the CDF, Larson recognized a great need for homeless children to have a suitable place to play. She and a colleague decided to establish the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project in 2003, an organization that provides children’s programs in family shelters and transitional housing programs in Washington, D.C. Larson has been the full time Executive Director since 2009.
Larson also worked as a Clinical Social Worker at Bright Beginnings, a Head Start program for homeless families, and then as Regional Director for National Student Partnerships. She then went on to serve as the Community School Director at the J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Washington, D.C. with the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF). After joining NCCF in 2004, the following year she was named “Employee of the Year” as a “Voice for Children” for her service to the children as a social worker and her advocacy work on behalf of the children in a neglected community in Southeast, Washington, D.C.
“I feel like PLEN is where my roots came from in doing this work,” Larson said, who now also donates her time to PLEN programs. “I was able to meet people living out their dreams, [so] I feel a responsibility to continue that important tradition to help others feel inspired by similar women to make change in the world.”
By Kristina Hamilton • 2015