Chief Executive Officer
Harlem Children’s Zone®
Anne Williams-Isom is the Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone®, overseeing the organization’s comprehensive pipeline of programs, which serve 13,000 children and 13,000 adults.
Ms. Williams-Isom found her calling to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families when she was still a child herself. Growing up with a single mother in Queens, she witnessed firsthand the many challenges confronting kids i
n struggling communities. Yet she also learned that, with the right support and opportunities, they have the potential to overcome those challenges and realize their ambitions.
Ms. Williams-Isom received a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from Fordham University. Soon after, she began working in Community Affairs for the New York Police Department in Brooklyn. Working in Brooklyn in the 1980s, at the height of community policing, further fueled her commitment to social justice—but it was only after graduating from law school at Columbia University that she fully came to appreciate the complexity of social problems and the pivotal role of the community in solving them.
After receiving her J.D., Ms. Williams-Isom practiced law for five years at two of New York’s most prestigious firms. She then took on the position of Director of the Office of Community Planning and Development at NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). There, she oversaw the development of crucial community partnerships, including a partnership with HCZ. During the creation of the original HCZ Project in the 1990s, Ms. Williams-Isom worked with Geoffrey Canada, offering strategic counsel on integrating preventive services into HCZ’s neighborhood-based network of programs. She also instituted the first ACS Leadership Academy for Child Protection, providing professional development for the staff overseeing investigation of the 55,000 reports to ACS of child abuse and neglect each year. Throughout her 13-year tenure at the agency, Ms. Williams-Isom remained steadfast in her primary goal: to strengthen families and support vulnerable children.
In 2009, Ms. Williams-Isom joined Mr. Canada to become HCZ’s Chief Operating Officer, overseeing operations across the organization. As COO, she worked to advance HCZ’s data-driven culture of accountability, spearheading numerous initiatives to strengthen services and improve outcomes for HCZ’s children and families. Ms. Williams-Isom assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2014. She has been featured in articles in The New York Times and Crain’s New York Business.
Ms. Williams-Isom is routinely sought after for her expert advice and guidance on child welfare and community development. She currently serves on the Advisory Council of the recently created My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, inspired by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
Ms. Williams-Isom was appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to his Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board in January 2016, and was selected to be a part of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows Program in December 2015.
She is also the recipient of a Public Interest Achievement Award from the Public Interest Law Foundation at Columbia Law School (2015) and an Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Families Fellowship (2007-2008).