Inside SVCF’s New Center for Early Learning

Last month, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) announced the formation of a new center aimed at improving early childhood education programs in Silicon Valley. The center’s first priority is releasing an innovative study that investigated the beliefs, practices, and challenges that parents with kids under eight face in this area of California.

“Children’s earliest experiences profoundly shape their potential to succeed in school and life,” Emmett D. Carson, SVCF President and CEO, said in a press release. “Here in Silicon Valley, too many of our kids are struggling. Close to half of the region’s children are not reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade, and this number rises to a shocking 60 percent or more among Latino, African-American and Pacific-Islander children.”

To kick off the new plan, SVCF hired a new director to lead the Center for Early Learning. Avo Makdessian will be the program’s new director, leaving his previous position as Policy Director at First 5 Santa Clara County. “We are proud to have Avo Makdessian at the helm of the Center for Early Learning,” said Erica Wood, senior vice president of community leadership and grantmaking at SVCF. “With the heightened attention on the importance of early learning nationally and statewide, Silicon Valley needs a center than can provide up-to-date research on pressing issues facing our youngest children and their families, pilot innovative approaches to addressing these issues and be a leading voice in relevant policy discussions.”

SVCF’s Center for Early Learning will complement the existing foundation grantmaking strategies and initiatives, without creating a new funding area. Early childhood education is not one of SVCF’s grantmaking focus areas, as the general education strategy is focused on closing the mathematics achievement gap in middle schools. However, early learning is one of two community collaboration initiatives that SVCF participates in. Most of these targeted initiatives are three to six years in length, but special projects designed for immediate impact are also considered (Read Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Bay Area Grants).

SVCF expects the new center to enhance the foundation’s ability to address the opportunity gaps for young children that later turn into achievement gaps in school. To learn more about the foundation’s early childhood education initiatives, check out the Bridges to Success and Raising a Reader programs on the foundation website. You can reach out to Jessica Mihaly at jmihaly@siliconvalleycf.org about Bridges to Success and Pat Sasso at pfsasso@siliconvalleycf.org about Raising a Reader.