2003-2004 Literacy Champions

Diane Portnoy

Founder, President and CEO of The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc., Malden, MA

Diane Portnoy is founder, president and CEO of The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC), a free, not-for-profit, adult learning center in Malden, Massachusetts. She is a Massachusetts certified teacher in adult basic education and in grades K-8. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Boston University and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Cornell University.

Diane is an expert in the areas of adult education, immigrant issues and the positive impact immigrants have on the economy as entrepreneurs, workers and consumers. During the 1980’s, she saw first-hand the growing influx of immigrants and refugees to this country and their need for intensive, English language services. Out of concern for their plight stemming from her own immigrant background as the daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, she opened The ILC in November 1992. Their mission is to give immigrant and refugee adults enough knowledge of English to lead productive lives in the U.S. and become successful workers, parents and community members. Since inception, The ILC has served more than 7,000 immigrants from 118 countries who live in 81 Greater Boston communities.

After 9/11, Diane expanded The ILC mission to also educate the public, including policy makers, businesses, teachers, students and the media, that immigrants make vital economic and social contributions to the country and to counteract rising anti-immigrant sentiment felt by many ILC students and other immigrants. She established the Public Education Institute in 2003 that has commissioned and published 10 university-based research studies on immigrants as entrepreneurs, workers and consumers in various business sectors as well as conducts online educator forums.

She also established the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) in partnership with George Mason University, located outside of Washington, D.C., in April 2012. Their goal is to continue on a national level immigrant research that The ILC has commissioned in Massachusetts. In October 2012, Diane released her book entitled Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts as part of The ILC’s ongoing public education initiatives. The book chronicles the experiences of 11 immigrant groups in the U.S., how each group faced discrimination, struggled to assimilate and ultimately made significant contributions to American life from the country’s founding through today.

Diane, the school and its staff have received numerous awards locally and nationally.