Blog categories
Mar 7, 2023 |
  No Comments

NCFL is excited to welcome Search Institute to co-host a webinar for our network on Thursday, March 30 at 3 p.m. ET.

How do parents view the educator/student relationship? What do they consider to be gaps in strengthening relationships with their children’s teachers? This webinar will discuss the recent findings of a national poll conducted by Search Institute that shares new insights around parents’ perceptions of the role of relationships between young people and their teachers. The presentation will also discuss how schools and other youth-serving organizations can reframe family engagement and offer strategies to strengthen relationships with families.

Register today!


Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D., LMFT
President and CEO
Search Institute

Dr. Ben Houltberg is a developmental scientist, former tenured faculty member, social entrepreneur, and experienced marriage and family therapist. He is widely published on topics such as adolescent social and emotional competencies, resilience through relationships, and character and identity development through sports. He has successfully led large research teams, consulted with several high-performance organizations to create thriving cultures, and developed tools and resources aimed at promoting resilience through relationships.

In his work as a licensed counselor, Ben has worked extensively with youth living in socioeconomic disadvantage. He has served as a family support specialist, adolescent group counselor, vocational counselor and therapist, and practicum and internship clinical supervisor. He has held academic positions at Purdue University–Fort Wayne, Fuller School of Psychology, and the University of Southern California. Ben is also a former NCAA Division I athlete and ran professionally after college. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Oklahoma State University and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling from Oral Roberts University.

Kara Hirano, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Search Institute

As a Research Scientist at Search Institute, Kara conducts applied mixed methods research, translates research to practical applications, and secures grant funding for projects. She holds a Ph.D in Special Education and M.Ed in Couples and Family Therapy from the University of Oregon and has expertise in promoting positive youth development by helping systems improve relationships between youth and their families. She is a former faculty member at Illinois State University in the Department of Special Education where she focused on the transition from high school to postsecondary education and employment. She also has experience working as a therapist for youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system. Kara is focused on building strong relationships within families, as well as between families and youth-serving organizations. She appreciates Search Institute’s focus on relational context and equity as well as the organization’s approach to ensuring all who interact with young people understand their role in promoting positive youth development.

Toni Mallett, M.Ed.
Director, Family Engagement
National Center for Families Learning

Toni Mallett is a graduate of the University of Arizona Global Campus of San Diego, CA, with a Master of Arts in Education specializing in Family and Community Services. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Social Work, from Western Michigan University (WMU) of Kalamazoo, MI. While attending WMU, Toni was an active member of the university's student organization, You Beautiful Black Woman (YBBW). 

She is a community and social services professional with collective experiences in education and family & community services. Her vocation is to empower families to become change agents in their child's life, home, and community. In addition, Toni is President of the Board for Meaning in Colors of Grand Rapids, MI. Meaning in Colors serves individuals and families experiencing homelessness.


Leave A Comment

NCFL Partners

NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image


Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website