Education Matters: Why Kids Need Philanthropy

Published on: December 30, 2013

Photo by Barbara Kinney, courtesy of the Raikes Foundation
Photo by Barbara Kinney, courtesy of the Raikes Foundation

Every week I go out reporting and also comb the news and social media trying to find education topics to bring to your attention. There's a wealth of material to choose from locally, statewide and nationally. Do you want to know about the flashers near schools in West Seattle? The latest on charter schools or school board races or enrollment boundaries?

Or who logs more travel hours, anti-education reform activist Diane Ravitch or Bruce Springsteen?

That was this Jersey Girl/education geek's favorite Tweet of the week.

Magically, by Wednesday I usually know THE story I want to share with you. And this Wednesday was no exception.

Standing in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the stairwell of their new offices, I listened to Jeff and Tricia Raikes explain why they had established the Raikes Foundation.

"We are temporary stewards of a portion of society's wealth," explained Raikes, who acknowledges that he and Tricia, early Microsoft employees, were beneficiaries of the "Microsoft jackpot."

Raikes, currently CEO of the Gates Foundation, has announced he will retire from that role in 2014 and devote more of his time to his own foundation, which is expanding.

The seed of an idea

Their eldest daughter's experiences with middle-school bullying raised the Raikes' awareness about the challenges of early adolescence. They wondered how families without resources dealt with these challenges.

And most important, they wondered how they could help.

Thus, their foundation was born.

"The common thread in everything we've seen {locally and internationally} is that when kids believe in their abilities and get the support they need, great things can happen," said Tricia Raikes, a 2012 ParentMap Superhero for Washington Families.

Their mission

The Raikes Foundation has a refreshingly simple mission statement:

Empowering young people to transform their lives.

Its three core strategies are:

Ending youth homelessness in King County:

This year, the Raikes Foundation assisted in the development of the Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Youth and Young Adult Homelessness in King County by 2020. Currently the Foundation is working with community partners to secure funding and other support needed to implement this plan.

Improving the quality of after-school programs in Washington State:

Since 2009, the Foundation's Youth Program Quality Initiative has provided grants to 70 nonprofit organizations in King, Pierce and Spokane counties, enabling these groups to get the professional development and other support they need to continue to improve and maintain high quality programs.

Building "student agency:"

This newest nationally focused Raikes Foundation Initiative is an outgrowth of the research done on "mindset," which suggests that students' attitudes about their ability to learn and the strategies they use, can have a powerful impact on their success.

The Foundation's goals in developing student agency include increasing awareness,  strengthening academic research and promoting adoption of effective classroom strategies.

What does pizza have to do with philanthropy?

An impressive aspect of Wednesday night's reception was the number and scope of organizations represented. Yes, Bill Gates Senior and Bill Jr. and Melinda were there. So were a lot of other people equally engaged in improving the lives of children.

Over a discussion that included the name of an authentic New York pizza restaurant in Everett, I learned that Issaquah's Village Theater, the Seattle Art Museum and Girl Scouts of Western Washington all benefit from Raikes Foundation youth program quality grants to fund after-school programs for students.

I saw University of Washington researchers, education advocates and the publisher of Crosscut, which has received a Raikes Foundation grant to continue its reporting on at risk youth. College Success Foundation CEO and President Yolanda Watson Spiva, recently featured by ParentMap as part of our Someone You Should Know series, was there, along with a host of other people I didn't get to talk to about pizza or anything else.

Philanthropy brings people together.

There's an exponential factor at play. A philanthropist can remind us, as Jeff Raikes did, that partnership is key and that big goals can't be achieved without putting together key resources.

Philanthropists remind us what is good about the human spirit: giving just for the sake of giving and remembering to give back.

Last Wednesday there was no place I would rather live than Seattle and no room full of people I would have rather been among.

Judging from the scope of expertise and commitment gathered at the Raikes Foundation that night, the kids are, or will be, alright.

Because, as Jeff Raikes puts it, in philanthropy you follow your head, but first and foremost, you follow your heart.

Blogger Elizabeth Ralston reminds us that anyone can be a philanthropist. Check out her blog Doing Good, which appears regularly on ParentMap.

Education news

New Boundary Proposals: Following considerable public feedback, Seattle Public Schools has again adjusted the enrollment boundary proposals. The Seattle School Board will vote on this latest proposal on November 20.

The new plan features considerable changes from the first two iterations, including adding APP to Whitman and Eckstein Middle Schools, creating a new elementary attendance area in West Seattle and opening Jane Addams Middle School for grades 6-8. Here are the plan details.

Inches or centimeters? Are our kids getting a good education or not? Here's a great explanation of the difference between the way Diane Ravitch measures the U.S. education system versus the yardstick used by proponents of education reform.

College Common App snafu: The health marketplace is not the only headache-producing site. Glitches in the newly-designed online common college application have caused many U.S. higher learning institutions to extend their November 1 deadline for students seeking early decision. Learn more here.

Charter Schools Update: October 22 was the deadline to submit letters of intent to open a charter school to the Washington Charter School Commission. Our recently-passed charter school law allows the establishment of up to 40 schools over the next five years. You can find a timeline of the application process on the Washington State Charter Schools Association website. This non-profit organization supporting the start-up of charter schools is not to be confused with the Charter School Commission, an independent state agency charged with authorizing charter schools.

Here is a list and the locales of charter school applicants.

ParentMap will be covering the 2013 election. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn the results of the hotly-contested Seattle School Board race.

246Alison Krupnick is ParentMap's Education Editor and a former world-traveling diplomat turned minivan-driving mom and writer. She chronicled her transformation in her book Ruminations from the Minivan, Musings from a World Grown Large, then Small. Her writing has been published in Harvard Review; Brain, Child; Seattle magazine and a variety of news and trade publications and literary journals and anthologies. You can find more of her education reporting on and enjoy sweet and savory moments and recipes on her blog Slice of Mid-Life. Have an education question or suggestion? Let her know!

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