SchoolHouse Connection was founded by Barbara Duffield and Patricia Julianelle, the nation’s leading experts on the early care and education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. For the past twenty years, we have ushered to passage critical policies and programs for children and youth experiencing homelessness, and provided extensive technical assistance on these policies. You can learn more about us below, and read about our history and advocacy principles here. We are very proud to introduce our first Board of Directors; learn more about these dynamic individuals here.
Barbara Duffield is Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection. For more than 20 years, she has bridged policy and practice in early care, education, housing, and homelessness. Barbara began her career as a tutor for children experiencing homelessness in Washington DC in 1990. She was the Director of Education for the National Coalition for the Homeless from 1994-2003, where she collaborated with service providers, educators, federal agencies, and Congressional offices to address children’s issues. She served as the Director of Policy and Programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth in Washington D.C from 2003-2016, leading national efforts to strengthen federal protections and services for children and youth experiencing homelessness, from early childhood through higher education
Barbara helped to establish and develop the NAEHCY Scholarship Program, a comprehensive scholarship program for youth who have experienced homelessness and wish to pursue higher education. She has conducted technical assistance trainings, authored policy reports, appeared on television and radio shows, and has been quoted by various media outlets such as The New York Times and Education Week. Her academic work can be found in Educational Studies, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. Barbara has served on numerous commissions and advisory groups, including Sesame Street Workshop’s Trauma Initiative and the National Commission on Children and Disasters education group. She received her Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
Director of Program Advancement and Legal Affairs
Patricia Julianelle is an attorney and legal consultant for state and local governments and non-profit organizations. She has over 20 years of experience defending children’s and youth’s rights, including advocating for youth in the education, juvenile justice, child welfare, and immigration systems. Patricia is an expert on education law and policy, including the rights of children experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities and undocumented immigrants. She has worked with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN), Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the American Bar Association, among other organizations.
Patricia’s skills include: leading trainings for state and local educational agencies, attorneys and non-profit organizations; convening powerful local, inter-agency task forces on youth homelessness; providing targeted technical assistance to state departments of education and local educational agencies; and drafting federal and state legislation to turn the wisdom of practitioners and young people into law. She also produces training and awareness videos related to family and youth homelessness. Her work has been published in academic and practice journals, including the Children’s Legal Rights Journal, Seattle Journal of Social Justice, Journal of Poverty Law & Policy, and Inquiry & Analysis, as well as publications of the American Bar Association, California Research Bureau and U.S. Department of Education. Patricia has taught high school and law school. Patricia graduated from Yale University and received her J.D. summa cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School. She taught high school in the US and law school in Chile, where she met her wife and continues to reside part-time.
Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships
Amy Bradley has over 15 years of experience working in education, starting as a tutor and instructor for an Upward Bound program for young people facing educational obstacles. She taught high school Language Arts for ten years, and served as an academic and internship advisor. She remained in education as a researcher at The Ohio State University and as the McKinney-Vento school district homeless liaison for Columbus Public Schools, the largest district in Ohio. She worked for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) to provide and coordinate scholarships and other services to improve post-secondary education outcomes for young adults experiencing homelessness. She received a Bachelor’s in Science degree cum laude in English Education from Ohio University and an M.A. in Education from Goddard College in Vermont.
Grace Whitney, Ph.D., MPA, IMH-E (IV)
Director of Early Childhood Initiatives
Grace Whitney joined SchoolHouse Connection after twenty years as Director of Connecticut’s Head Start State Collaboration Office. She is a developmental psychologist and endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Policy Mentor. Dr. Whitney began her
career as a preschool teacher in special education and as a home visitor for at-risk families of infants and toddlers, and has since held clinical and administrative positions in early childhood, community mental health and human services, and has served on aid teams abroad. She has taught full time and as an adjunct instructor in child development/developmental psychology, statistics, and public policy and is published on topics related to her work. Throughout her career, she has participated on local, regional and national Boards and presented often at conferences and professional meetings including Zero to Three, National Head Start Association and World Congress for Infant Mental Health. She has designed government tools and publications, including three informational modules and related core knowledge and competencies for consultants to programs serving infants and toddlers and the original Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters. While serving as Head Start State Collaboration Director in CT, she partnered with a number of states and organizations to promote policy and practice to better meet the needs of young children and their families, in particular, those experiencing homelessness.
Over the 45 years of her career, Dr. Whitney has worked in a variety of contexts involving children without homes, including child welfare, community mental health and early childhood systems and in orphanages abroad. For several years early in her career she was a residential counselor with Second Mile for Runaways and helped start the National Runaway Switchboard. Her Master’s thesis focused on federal policy related to runaway youth at the time of passage of the Runaway Youth Act of 1974, as running away was beginning to be treated as a status offense. Dr. Whitney received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development/Education and her Doctorate in Family Studies from the University of Connecticut, her Master’s degree in Human Development from the Institute for Child Study at the University of Maryland, and her Master’s degree in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic University.
Leconte Lee moved to Honolulu, Hawaii from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the age of 20. He studied Advertising & Public Relations at Hawaii Pacific University while interning at various marketing and advertising agencies. Upon graduation, he accepted an account management position at a boutique public relations firm in New York City. Passionate about marketing, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 to complete his MBA in Marketing. During this time, the founder of Charlotte’s first mobile farmers market recruited him to be his right-hand man on the ground floor with $800 seed money and a big ugly van. As the co-founder, he experienced everything: starting/growing a business from scratch, balancing the budget for what became a $200,000 charitable business in less than 2 years, vendor relations, sales, and marketing. As a result, they were awarded three industry awards in innovation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. When the business was sold, he was recruited by his former manager at Outrigger Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii to provide marketing services to 32 local and international properties. Some of his expertise includes social media, email marketing, copywriting and content development, traditional media, and campaign optimization.
In his free time, Leconte loves exploring, seeking out new restaurants, and traveling. He currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia with his husband, and their extremely adorable poodle-mix rescue, Fresco.
Leconte is extremely excited to bring his skills and expertise to such an amazing organization. He was drawn to SchoolHouse Connection because his parents worked extremely hard and made incredible sacrifices to put him through college and he is determined to give back to the community and give others the opportunity that was given to him.