Time for Innovation in Florida Programs for Early Childhood Education
Sep 26, 2019
Karen Willis, with Dr. Kevin Sherin
Time for Innovation in Florida Programs for Early Childhood Education

Karen Willis, CWDP, has been the Chief Executive Officer for the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, since January 2007. As CEO, Karen leads a staff of over 50, two key contractors, and over 750 early care and education providers to appropriately invest over $71M in state, federal and local funding to benefit Orange County’s youngest citizens. Prior to joining the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, Karen served as Executive Director for the Early Learning Coalition of Seminole County for 3 1/2 years.

She has over 40 years of experience in designing, managing and administering publicly funded programs at both the local and state levels – primarily those focused on services to youth, the physically challenged, and the unemployed and underemployed.

In 2012, Karen was inducted into the Florida Family Child Care Home Association Advocate Hall of Fame. She is a graduate of Leadership Brevard, Leadership Orlando, Leadership Seminole, Leadership Orange, Leadership Law, and Leadership West Orange. In 2019, Karen was named as one of Orlando Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business.

Karen currently serves as chair emeritus of the Central Florida Regional Committee for the Children’s Movement of Florida and is a past chair of the Orange County Children’s Cabinet. She is a current member of the inaugural class of Leadership Orlando 2.0, the Orange County League of Women Voters, Women’s Executive Council, the Association of Early Learning Coalitions (AELC), the West Orlando Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, East Orlando Chamber of Commerce, and Orlando, Inc..

During her tenure, the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County has been awarded Central Florida Urban League’s 2019 Cornerstone Award for Youth Empowerment and the City of Orlando’s 2019 Community Builder Award.

A resident of Orange County, FL since 1998, Karen holds a BA in Sociology from Valparaiso University, a Master of Public Affairs degree from Indiana University, and a TQM certificate and Servant Leadership certificate from Indiana University.


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