Child First Authority
Danista Hunte has focused Child First Authority’s mission since taking over as executive director in July 2016. The nonprofit group works to transform schools into community hubs and provides out-of-school and summer programs for thousands of children.
“I have led the board and staff to look critically at the scope of our work and to make decisions about how to move forward strategically,” said Hunte, who was vice president of the Baltimore Community Foundation before she moved to her current position. “Employing practical decision-making and anchoring our decisions on data and the direct feedback of the students and families that we serve has led us to be competitive in the youth development space.”
Child First has used a grant from the Baltimore City Children and Youth Fund to improve programs for middle school students in Baltimore, including the creation of a summer program. Hunte also garnered a grant for the current school year from the Chimes Foundation to change how staff works with students with disabilities.
Child First operated for more than 20 years on funding from public agencies, but under Hunte, it has secured more money from local foundations and individual donors, including about $13,000 in the past two years. “Reliance on a single funding source makes Child First vulnerable to changes in the political and financial landscape.”
Hunte said the key to her success has been developing employees. “I lead by example and never ask my team to commit to a task that I would not do myself. I encourage others to stretch and to take strategic risks to address personal and professional goals. It is important to do good work, but especially in the nonprofit sector, the work must be impactful and lead to improved outcomes supported by data.”