Sylvia Yee, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

TITLE: Vice President of Programs

FUNDING AREAS: Immigration rights and reform, gay and lesbian rights, education, leadership development, community initiatives

CONTACT: vp.slyvia@hassjr.org, (415) 856-1400

IP TAKE: Yee has dedicated her career to social change in areas from community development, to youth leadership, to civil rights. A one-time high school teacher, she is also an expert in education, especially when it comes to leveling the playing field to ensure the success of  low-income students and students of color. 

PROFILE: Sylvia Yee, who now serves as the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund’s Vice President of Programs, started her career as a high school teacher. She moved on to administer educational programs at the elementary, secondary, and university levels in the United States and in China.

Passionate about social justice, Yee has been active in the fight for equal rights and opportunities at the local and national levels. A long-time community activist and leader, she was the  chair of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center in San Francisco where she led the center’s organizing and other activities aimed at addressing issues such as affordable housing and services for low-income seniors and youth. She also led a community nonprofit agency, Mission Graduates, which provides educational support to low-income, immigrant children in San Francisco and later worked as a program executive in education and health at the San Francisco Foundation. Yee was a co-founder of Coaching Corps, an organization that levels the athletic playing field for low-income youth in California.

As vice president of programs for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Yee played a key role in the selection and development of programs in immigrant rights, gay and lesbian rights, education equity and leadership development for social change.  “As grantmakers, we ask ourselves how to best support the leadership and capacity of grantees  to achieve real and lasting change," Yee has explained.

While at the Haas, Jr. Fund, Yee co-founded the San Francisco Beacon Initiative, a nationally recognized program that runs community centers offering afterschool programming, academic tutoring, sports and other health and educational services at eight public school sites across the city. She's also overseen the fund's involvement with the San Francisco Unified School district, which she writes about here, a partnership that aims to close the achievement gap for students in the city, especially children of color living in low-income communities.

In her “off” hours, Yee is deeply involved in the work of a number of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations as a board member and chair. Currently she is a trustee of BoardSource and Coaching Corps and sits on the national advisory group of the Haas Public Service Center at Stanford University. She has served on numerous other  boards and was the chair of many of them, including  Asian Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and Family Support America. 

Yee earned a bachelor’s in history from Stanford University, a master’s in teaching from Reed College, and a PhD in educational administration and policy from Stanford. She published a book, titled “Careers in the Classroom” and co-authored “Got Me a Story to Tell: Five Children Tell About Their Lives.” 

All of these experiences made Yee a perfect fit at Haas, whose mission is to make sure that all people have an equal chance to live their lives with dignity. The fund makes grants in the areas of immigration, gay and lesbian rights, education equity, nonprofit leadership, and community partnerships. 

To learn more about the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund’s priorities, review the Our Grants section on the foundation website.