Imagine as a child having the freedom to bring up any topic for discussion as desired during family meals? For Jennifer Pippard, it was a wonderful way to grow up.
“We often laugh now that the food may have not been so tasty — as there were no real cooks in our family — but the dinner table conversation was great and no topic was off limits,” said Pippard.
Growing up in a small town in the state of Washington, Jennifer said she loved spending time at the family dinner table, which served as the place to find solutions to challenges facing their community at large.
“My paternal great-grandmother was a trailblazer for women’s reproductive rights in Canada, and my maternal grandparents started the first Canadian chapter of the Association for Retarded Citizens, inspired by my Uncle Brian who had Down syndrome,” she noted. “My mom led the county department of developmental disabilities in Spokane, Washington. My dad brought Head Start to Montana and as a college professor mentored many Spanish-speaking young people to be social workers in their communities, often befriending the whole family along the journey.”
“She’s a collaborator and she always figures out a way to get something done that really benefits kids and families.” -Dorothy Fleisher
The United Farm Workers flag in Jennifer’s office is a hand-me-down from her father that was earned along one of these journeys, she said.
For Jennifer, her family’s strong values made a big impact on her ability to view the world from a variety of viewpoints, cultures and economic backgrounds.
“Racially and ethnically, the communities I grew up in were very homogeneous,” she recalled. “It was common for us to attend the annual Pow Wow in Washington, or join friends at the Jewish synagogue, attend the Hmong community for occasions, or have gay and lesbian friends over.”
While the family homestead gave Jennifer great confidence to express her thoughts and emotions, school turned out to be a very different experience.
“I was a painfully shy child and once out in the world I barely spoke,” she continued. “In school, one teacher in particular would get enraged when I read too quietly for her, so she frequently sent me to the principal’s office.”
What started out as a bumpy road during her formative years, eventually turned into a gift of time with a caring educator. The nurturing and safe environment provided by the school’s principal helped Jennifer flourish.
“We would have great conversations and I would read entire books to him throughout the year,” she shared. “I credit him and my childhood best friend for giving me a love of reading, and both were able to see the real me beyond my shyness. This may be one reason why I care deeply for children and feel they need to be heard.”
Education & Career Expertise
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Western Washington University, Jennifer set out to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, South America.
“It was a natural fit, and my family was very supportive,” she said. “My grandmother came to visit me in Ecuador, and she loved the Ecuadorian culture’s respect for the elderly. Having my grandmother stay in my little village is one of my dearest memories.”
After returning back to the U.S., Jennifer moved to Los Angeles and earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California, where she earned the respect of her instructors.
Dorothy Fleisher, program director at the W.M. Keck Foundation, described Jennifer as a “can-do person” while she was serving as her field instructor during the USC graduate program.
“She’s a collaborator and she always figures out a way to get something done that really benefits kids and families,” Fleisher said.
Jennifer focused her social work duties to serve children in foster care and family child care programs.
“I saw firsthand how good-intentioned policies were really damaging to children and learned we must listen to those who use the service, and those who deliver the service on the front lines,” Jennifer said. “Because policy made with good intention — but in isolation — is terribly harmful.”
“Racially and ethnically, the communities I grew up in were very homogeneous.” -Jennifer Pippard
Jennifer then went on to serve as the first project director of Healthy Beginnings/Comienzo Sano, a program that offered undocumented mothers social supports and connected them to a medical provider through community promotoras.
She also spent time as a consultant working with various organizations, such as the “Children’s Planning Council,” which focused on building communities to best support children and families.
“Throughout my career, I have had a community organizing focus, and these experiences always stay with me, especially how to bring up the community voice and authentically be a respectful partner at the neighborhood level,” she said.
Along the way, Jennifer established a reputation as staunch advocate for children.
First 5 LA Commission Alternate Terry Ogawa recalled working with Jennifer at the City of Los Angeles’ Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families, where Ogawa served as executive director and Jennifer worked as the director of the Neighborhood Networks4Kids, which operated in each of the 14 city council districts.
“Jennifer worked to make sure youth, parents and community members were engaged with the City’s departments and policy makers to ensure that their neighborhoods were safe places for children to grow and thrive,” Ogawa said. “In this role, she worked with parents and local businesses to prioritize pedestrian safety around schools as a key issue. Neighborhood Networks4Kids coordinated a Child Safety Task Force and worked with City departments, LAUSD and LAPD to implement the City’s first Safety Valet program at a few local elementary schools. And today, the program continues to grow at other elementary, middle and high schools.”
First 5 LA
Jennifer started her journey at First 5 LA in 2003 in the Program & Planning and Community Investments Departments.
Over the last 14 years, she moved from serving as a Senior Program Officer to the Director of Community Investments, to her current role as the Director of the Strategic Partnerships.
Over the last 14 years, she has supported First 5 LA’s general operations and strategic planning efforts and led a range of large-scale initiatives such as “Prenatal through Three” (the beginnings of Best Start and later Welcome Baby) and supported others such as Partnerships for Families and more current efforts around trauma-informed systems change and built environments.
“The thread through my career has been relationships,” said Jennifer. “The social work motto ‘it is all about relationships’ rings true in every job that I have had.”
“The social work motto ‘it is all about relationships’ rings true in every job that I have had.”-Jennifer Pippard
As the Director of the Strategic Partnerships Department, Jennifer and her team are responsible for developing organization-wide partnerships that contribute to the advancement of First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan outcomes. The department develops First 5 LA’s relationships with philanthropy, business and institutions of higher education to advance First 5 LA’s policy and systems change agenda. This is accomplished by:
- Initiating, developing, and sustaining strong and effective partnerships with key leaders from the public and private sectors that have shared strategic value to First 5 LA at the local, state and national levels;
- Identifying leveraging opportunities for First 5 LA funding with that of other organizations and governments, creating more flexibility in existing funding streams, and developing public-private partnerships; and
- Finding ways to maximize existing dollars invested in early childhood and improve the alignment of new resources.
This year, Jennifer said, her department has strengthened or started new partnerships with organizations such as L.A. Partnership for Early Childhood Investment; L.A. Funders’ Collaborative; Southern California Grantmakers; L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce; L.A. Economic Development Corporation; USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity; L.A. County Office of Strategic Public Private Partnerships; Sesame Street in Communities; California Community Foundation; Silicon Valley Community Foundation; and Council for a Strong America.
In addition, Jennifer said, the Strategic Partnerships Department has:
- Hosted funder collaboratives for the Children’s Data Network to introduce this valuable tool as a resource for partner philanthropic organization informing their funding decisions;
- Brought the 0–5 lens to a pilot on emergency child care to support family members in becoming foster parents to their kin;
- Served as a partner in building an innovative app to support foster parents arranging visitation for the children in their care;
- Joined the Los Angeles Funders Collaborative on an equity report “Measures Matter” to inform the process on distributing Measure A funds using an equity lens; and
- Worked in partnership with California Community Foundation and the Liberty Hill Foundation in advocating for our immigrant families so they have education on the “know your rights” campaign and have access to supportive services in their community.
“This year Strategic Partnerships looks forward to building up the home visiting workforce, work in partnership to build community capacity and increase the overall number of advocates of our young children in Los Angeles,” Jennifer said.
Three Things You Didn’t Know About Jennifer
- She is a fan of large dogs, but mainly her large Newfoundland dog, Cassie.
- She loves the outdoors and adventure travel.
- She still thinks Peace Corps was the hardest job she ever loved and credits it for her consistent global view. #promotoras are power