While a college student in Minnesota, Jamila founded a program similar to Playtime at a Minneapolis homeless shelter; the program earned her the Social Work Student of the Year award in 1995. Jamila came to Washington to work for the Children’s Defense Fund in 1996, where she researched and wrote about best practices for strengthening low-income families for four years before getting her master’s degree in social work. She then served as a clinical social worker at Bright Beginnings, a Head Start program for families experiencing homelessness, and then as regional director and consultant for LIFT.
Prior to leading Playtime full-time, Jamila served as the community school director for the National Center for Children and Families at the JC Nalle Elementary School in Southeast D.C., where she managed a mental health and after-school program. In 2005, she was awarded Employee of the Year as a “Voice for Children” by the agency, whose 180 staff provide comprehensive child welfare services in the D.C. metropolitan area. Jamila ran Playtime as a volunteer since it was founded in 2003, and assumed her role as the first full-time executive director in September 2009. In 2012, she was honored as a Washingtonian of the Year for her work as Playtime’s leader.