Kevin Jennings, currently head of the Education Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, has been chosen as the new CEO of Boston-based Be the Change Inc., which spearheaded passage of the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act. He replaces founder Alan Khazei, who resigned to run for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat currently held by Scott Brown (R).
Jennings, a leading anti-bullying and gay rights advocate, will join Be the Change on July 25, making his tenure at the Education Department as assistant deputy secretary slightly more than two years.
Though frequently a target of conservatives for his work as founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – 53 House Republicans wrote Obama in October of 2009 to request his removal – Jennings championed and presided over the first White House Conference on Bullying, held in March.
A graduate of Harvard University, Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and New York University’s Stern School of Business, Jennings was a school teacher in Providence, R.I. before he founded GLSEN, the nation’s leading organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Jennings takes over Be the Change as it launches another major campaign – ServiceNation was the name of the effort that led to the passage of the Serve America Act – called OpportunityNation, focused on promoting opportunity, social and economic mobility and fighting poverty in this country. With funding from groups including the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Goldhirsh Foundation, a national summit to support the campaign is scheduled for November in New York.
The campaign is designed to formulate and support a bipartisan policy agenda of a magnitude similar to the Serve America Act.
Khazei, also a co-founder of the City Year program, ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) had held until his death in August of 2009.
Three Be the Change officials have been named co-directors to lead the organization until Jennings arrives. They are Sarah Beaulieu, vice president for organizational development and strategy; Mark Edwards, executive director of the OpportunityNation campaign and Greg Popper, executive director of ServiceNation.