Long-time advocate for cradle-to-career impact prevails in national search
CINCINNATI, OHIO — The Board of Directors of StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to improve education for every child, is pleased to announce the election of Jennifer Blatz as president and chief executive officer, effective January 1, 2018. Blatz has served the organization as Interim CEO since July 2017 and has been affiliated with StriveTogether and its predecessor organizations since 2001.
“Jennifer Blatz is the perfect choice to lead StriveTogether through the next phase of its impact across the country,” said board chair Nancy Zimpher, former chancellor of the State University of New York and a co-founder of StriveTogether. “That she prevailed in an extensive and comprehensive executive search that considered an exceptional slate of contenders, makes her appointment all the more compelling.”
The CEO search committee was chaired by Danae Davis, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, one of more than 70 cradle-to-career partnerships in StriveTogether’s national network. “Jennifer Blatz has been integral to every success StriveTogether has achieved on behalf of the children and communities we serve,” Davis said. “We are so very pleased that someone so central to the movement as Jennifer is should be tasked to lead the organization.”
Blatz succeeds StriveTogether Co-founder and former Executive Director Jeff Edmondson, who departed the organization earlier this year to become managing director of Ballmer Group, the organization co-founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer to improve economic mobility for children and families in the U.S. who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. In October 2017, Ballmer Group announced that it is investing up to $10 million annually over six years in StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities across the country to build better systems of support for children and families.
Blatz has championed StriveTogether’s cradle-to-career goals since 2001, when she began as a program officer with KnowledgeWorks focused on college and career access. As StriveTogether gained momentum, Blatz progressed through several roles: director of operations for StrivePartnership, the initial entity in Cincinnati in 2006; senior director of the Cradle to Career Network when the national effort launched in 2010; and deputy director of StriveTogether in 2014.
Over the same period, StriveTogether activated a national Cradle to Career Network that grew from one partnership in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky to more than 70 cradle-to-career partnerships in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Collectively, these local partnerships and their partners impact more than 8.2 million students nationally.
The comprehensive national search was conducted by an eight-person search committee of StriveTogether board members, long-time investors and executive directors of two local cradle-to-career partnerships. BoardWalk Consulting, an executive search firm devoted exclusively to recruiting leaders for foundations and nonprofit organizations, advised the committee.
“It is an honor and privilege to be asked by the Board to become the permanent CEO of StriveTogether,” Blatz said. “The support for this appointment by leaders in StriveTogether communities across the country is especially humbling. This is my life’s work and I look forward to continuing to partner with an amazingly talented team, committed Board, dedicated investors and local partnerships across the country as we work to build better systems to get to better outcomes for every child, from cradle to career.”
Edmondson applauded the choice. “I have been privileged to partner with Jennifer for over 15 years. Her professional growth has been inspiring. She has been a constant and committed force in leading innovative and impactful work to improve outcomes for children from cradle to career. I am confident the influence of her leadership will only continue to grow. Jennifer is an ideal choice.”
Launched in July 2017, the national search embraced nearly 370 sources and prospects from multiple sectors, including education (K-12 and higher education), philanthropy, the corporate sector, operating nonprofits (including StriveTogether cradle-to-career partnerships), consulting organizations and government leaders at local, state and federal levels. From a vetted list of several dozen prospects, the search committee met multiple times with a group of six finalists before conveying its recommendation to the Board of Directors.
“Succeeding a founder is an awesome responsibility, but so are the opportunities ahead,” Blatz said. “I have benefitted enormously from working alongside Jeff Edmondson for many years in a uniquely productive partnership. With both of us in new roles, I look forward to discovering new ways to leverage our shared commitment to improved educational outcomes.”
A native Kentuckian and first-generation college graduate, Blatz earned her master of science from Miami University and her bachelor of arts summa cum laude from the University of Kentucky. An avid runner, she makes her home with her husband and three school-age children in Hebron, Kentucky.
Blatz becomes CEO at a critical time in StriveTogether’s evolution. Supported by some of the country’s most respected foundations and philanthropists, StriveTogether is embarking on an ambitious six-year strategy to improve outcomes and reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities to improve the lives of children and families in communities across the country.
StriveTogether leads a national movement of more than 70 communities to get better results in every child’s life. We coach and connect partners across the country to close gaps by using local data and expertise, especially for children of color and low-income children. Communities using our approach have seen measurable gains in kindergarten readiness, academic achievement and postsecondary success. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network reaches 8.2 million students, involves 10,800 organizations and has partners in 32 states and Washington, D.C.