Ensuring Healthy Development of At-Risk Children and Families Through Community Engagement and Collaboration

Meet Kellie Mitchel, Director of Early Success Coalition (ESC) at Porter Leath, a non-profit organization that “empowers children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal, and independent lifestyle”.

Being a public health professional and the Director of ESC at Porter Leath, Kellie Mitchell is working to make a difference by helping build a supportive network for organizations that focus on the development of children. The non-profit focuses on children from prenatal to age five while offering resources and services for their holistic well-being along with their families. Kellie has been working in a non-profit for over 10 years. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She loves the city and its people with all her heart, and there’s no place she’d rather be. She holds a degree in Human Services from the University of Memphis and later attended Columbia University for her Master’s in Public Health. 

Kellie openly talks about her struggle with imposter syndrome, something that all of us go through at one or another point in our lives. She feels it often is difficult for many women to embrace who they are and their talents as she has. In college, she was confused between nonprofit and healthcare, and eventually found her passion in public health. 

She points out how society tells women to be submissive to their future husbands, be pretty, and do well in a quest to hold them back. This also affected Kellie, and she never saw herself turning into a talented professional until she became one. Fortunately, she was surrounded with supportive family and friends, including her husband. 

This motivated her to sign up for a master’s public health program at Columbia University. She is extremely proud of having the honor of studying at one of the top five public health programs. She feels that we should all lean on our successes and celebrate them. This paved a way for many new opportunities for her. Kellie worked for the Teen Health Programme at Harlem Children Zone in New York. Here she helped create a curriculum for children in middle and high school to learn about their health and body. She next worked at the national office of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) on their digital health education program through social media.

Initially, she was intimidated by looking at the audience of over a million watching their content. But she is grateful for the women who guided and supported her through this. 

Talking about Memphis, Kellie stressed on the problems of poverty, poor health outcomes, and high rates of infant mortality. While she was in college, she helped start a nonprofit, namely ‘A Step Ahead Foundation’, that offers free contraception to women or anyone with a uterus. When she returned to the city after her master’s, she joined the foundation as their Director of Strategic and affiliate Operations and worked to expand the organization throughout Tennessee. After this, Kellie joined Porter Leath as a director and has been working in the Early Success Coalition for over two years now.

The non-profit’s primary focus is the at-risk children and families in Memphis. They offer high-quality services to the children through family engagement and community collaboration to promote development. Early Success Coalitionenvisions a community where the children are born healthy, experience safe and nurturing relationships, and are kindergarten ready”. 

Unfortunately, ESC’s home visiting and one-on-one interaction programs with the family and child have been affected by the pandemic. The team quickly adapted to addressing digital inequity and ensured that the families had resources to connect to parenting courses curriculum online and even through telephones. They work to provide infant and early childhood mental health services to the families visiting the pediatric clinics, which was hit as well due to COVID. ESC pivoted to an alternative where they collaborated with a program called the “Apple seed Inc.” pre and postpartum mothers and parents to address their mental health issues. Porter Leath provides the follow-up services including screening for behavioral and developmental issues for postpartum depression virtually and with limited in-person support whilst following the safety protocols.

Porter Leath is always adding new talents to the team, and Kellie is proud of her team for always finding new ways to get things done. They work according to the program requirements and put in all the efforts to cater to the needs of the parents and children. Leaving an inspiring message for the readers, Kellie says, “Just go for it. If there’s that business you’re looking to open, if you’re hesitant to put your work out there because you are not sure that it’s ready, I promise you it’s great. Just put it out there. You will find love, you will find success. It may take a while, but don’t give up no matter how many setbacks you have”.