Who We Are

Denise Castillo Dell Isola

Program Director, Early Childhood

First Year with IHF


Focus Areas

Early Childhood Policy, Advocacy and Systems-Building; Grassroots Organizing and Movement Building; Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health


J.D., Boston College Law School
B.A. in Political Science, DePauw University
Certificate of Advanced Study in Philanthropy, Loyola University Chicago

Denise Castillo Dell Isola (she/her/hers), J.D., is the Program Director for Early Childhood at the Irving Harris Foundation where she leads grantmaking and field leadership in early childhood and advances the Foundation’s early childhood policy and advocacy work in Illinois, and at the multi-state and federal levels. Over the years, she spearheaded the Foundation’s work to advance a public/private partnership for a mental health consultation initiative in Illinois and led the Foundation’s effort to provide investments at the intersection of immigration and early childhood with a focus on infant early childhood mental health and child trauma. More recently, she worked to develop the Foundation’s early childhood strategy to support multi-issue grassroots organizing and movement building efforts to advance racial justice and equity and shift investments to organizations and initiatives led by and for communities most impacted by oppression. She currently serves on the steering committee for the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative. Before joining the Foundation, Denise served as the executive director of El Hogar del Nino, a community-based early care and education center in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. This experience working with families and their young children and the amazing staff that care for them in a community-based organization drives her passion to work on policy, advocacy and systems change. She also worked at United Way of Metro Chicago engaging with nonprofit organizations on a workforce development program. In her first career, she practiced commercial litigation at DLA Piper LLP. Denise is the proud mom of two children (13 and 11 years old), enjoys running with her two dogs, and spends lots of family time at the softball and baseball fields.