President Barack Obama named the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell director of the Department's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Dec. 13, 2010. The mission of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Education is to promote student achievement by connecting schools and community-based organizations, both secular and faith-based, as we build a culture of educational excellence. The center also works as a part of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Centers at 11 other agencies to more effectively serve Americans in need.
Girton-Mitchell brings more than 30 years' experience to the Department from her work as a teacher, legal counsel and minister.
A native of Indianapolis and the first in her family to go to college, Girton-Mitchell earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1970 from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., then taught elementary school for nine years in Indianapolis, where she also served for one year as president of the teachers' union. While teaching, she earned her master's in elementary education from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.
She earned her J.D. degree with honors from the Chicago–Kent College of Law in 1980, and worked for one year as a legislative assistant to former Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.). From 1981 to 1990, she served as legislative counsel to Sears Roebuck, and Co. in Washington, D.C., and, in 1991, she left Sears to serve for three years as director of government relations for the American Counseling Association.
In 1994, Girton-Mitchell was named associate executive officer for the National Council of Negro Women in Washington, where she worked closely with the council's president, Dorothy Height, to serve its nearly 4 million members.
In 1997, Mitsubishi Motors of America named her as its first director of diversity relations, a post she held for three years and during which time, she began her divinity studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
In 2000, Girton-Mitchell was named associate general secretary for justice and advocacy and director of the Washington office for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. For eight years, she provided leadership on the council's public policy activities for its 35 member faith groups, which represent a wide spectrum of beliefs, from Protestant, Orthodox and Evangelical churches to historic African-American and Living Peace churches. The council represents 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations across the United States. For eight years, she ran its Washington office, which had a budget of $2 million and a staff of six.
In the midst of working full-time for the council, she earned her master's of divinity degree and was ordained on June 12, 2004, as a minister for the Metropolitan Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., where she continues to serve as a minister for stewardship and missions. She also dedicates time to Grace and Race Ministries, a local nonprofit organization which she began to encourage healthy conversations about race.
In 2008, prior to joining the Department, she started her own consulting firm, Girton-Mitchell Associates, to assist churches and nonprofits in advocacy, leadership development and conflict resolution.
Girton-Mitchell is a life member of the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP, and the Urban League. She is admitted to the bars of Illinois, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. Among her memberships are the National Bar Association, the Washington Bar Association, and Leadership Greater Washington, and, currently, she is vice chair of the Board of Governors for Wesley Theological Seminary.
A recipient of numerous awards, she has received the National Council of Negro Women Bethune Recognition Award for an Outstanding Woman in Ministry, the National Bar Association's Presidential Award, and the Sagamore of the Wabash Award—the highest award given by the state of Indiana—and was inducted into the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr., International Board of Preachers.
Girton-Mitchell and her husband, James Mitchell, live in Silver Spring, Md.