Press Release - April 3, 2015

Four School District Communities Receive Big Lift Grants From SVCF 

The Big Lift effort in San Mateo County will build reading proficiency among young children, a key to future academic success

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — In an important step toward assuring all San Mateo County children have a chance at academic success, four school districts in the county have been selected as the first cohort of communities to receive grants to improve young children’s reading skills as part of The Big Lift initiative, Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced today.

The districts that were selected after a competitive process are Cabrillo Unified School District, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Jefferson Elementary School District and South San Francisco Unified School District.

A total of approximately $5 million will be awarded to preschool providers and school districts in these communities, representing the first round of grants that will be made over the course of three years to provide high-quality learning experiences from preschool to third grade. Those learning experiences will include high-quality preschool and summer programs, and a focus on reducing absenteeism and engaging parents and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.

“The goal of The Big Lift is to transform our system of early learning so that children in San Mateo County enter school ready to learn and are able to read proficiently by third grade,” said Erica Wood, Chief Community Impact Officer for SVCF. “Along with our lead partners, the County of San Mateo and the San Mateo County Office of Education, we are happy to support these very well-qualified organizations to help make this ambitious goal a reality.”

These grants were made possible in part by a $7.5 million investment in Silicon Valley Community Foundation by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). In September, CNCS named SVCF as one of seven recipients nationwide of a 2014 Social Innovation Fund grant.

Over the course of three years, the Social Innovation Fund grant to Silicon Valley Community Foundation will provide $7.5 million to increase the reading proficiency of children in San Mateo County through the ambitious countywide effort known as The Big Lift. SVCF may qualify for an additional $9 million in funding for a fourth and fifth year, pending Congressional appropriations and evidence of the program’s success.

“The Big Lift Initiative is an innovative program offering compelling solutions to the persistent challenges facing San Mateo County,” said Lois Nembhard, Acting Director of the Social Innovation Fund. “The competition process was highly selective, and we are eager to have the opportunity to work with Silicon Valley Community Foundation to expand their high-impact work to serve more people in need.”

The Social Innovation Fund requires local matching funds, a significant percentage of which will be provided by the County of San Mateo.

“The Big Lift will put young children in our high-need communities on the path to success,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom. "The County is proud to have committed local Measure A sales tax dollars early on to kick start this important work and to provide a match for significant federal investment." The Measure A sales tax was approved by San Mateo County voters in 2012. The county has made an initial contribution of $10 million from Measure A funds for The Big Lift.

The Big Lift was spearheaded in 2012 by the Peninsula Partnership Leadership Council, which is led by SVCF, the San Mateo County Office of Education, the County of San Mateo and a network of funders and service providers devoted to improving outcomes for children in the county.

“We are thrilled to be launching The Big Lift in the communities who have stepped forward to be our trailblazers. They have demonstrated they’re ready to roll up their sleeves and take on the challenge of improving third grade reading outcomes for all children in their schools,” said Anne Campbell, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools. “Our goal is to boost student literacy and achievement, and we know that giving children the support they need in the early years is the best way to reach this important milestone. We can’t wait to get started!”

The Big Lift seeks to address the troubling reality that in San Mateo County, 43 percent of third graders are not reading at grade level. The figure rises to a shocking 65 percent of Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander third graders. Education experts agree that third-grade reading proficiency is one of the best predictors of academic achievement in subsequent years. If a child is behind in reading by the end of third grade, it is likely that he or she will never catch up.

Among the school districts selected for the Big Lift grants, the percentage of third graders who scored below “proficient” on the California Standardized Test in English Language Arts in 2013 ranged from 48 percent to 65 percent.

San Mateo County’s Big Lift initiative integrates high-quality learning experiences from preschool to third grade, reduces chronic absence and summer learning loss, and engages parents and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.

For more information about The Big Lift, visit


About Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation makes all forms of philanthropy more powerful. We serve as a catalyst and leader for innovative solutions to our region’s most challenging problems, and through our donors we award more money to charities than any other community foundation in the United States. SVCF has $6.5 billion in assets under management. As Silicon Valley’s center of philanthropy, we provide thousands of individuals, families and corporations with simple and effective ways to give locally and around the world. Find out more at

About the Corporation for National and Community Service
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service and champions community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit