Press Release - June 30, 2016


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

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In an important step toward assuring all San Mateo County children have a chance at academic success, three school districts in the county have been selected to receive a second round of grants to improve young children’s reading skills as part of The Big Lift initiative, Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced today. The inclusion of these districts brings the total count of participating San Mateo County districts up to seven, representing 30 percent of county school districts.

The districts that were selected through a competitive process are Ravenswood, Redwood City and San Bruno Park. They join Cabrillo, La Honda Pescadero, Jefferson and South San Francisco as Big Lift communities. In addition to the districts’ preschool programs, grants will be awarded to the Institute for Human and Social Development and the City of Menlo Park’s Belle Haven Child Development Center.

A total of approximately $2 million per year will be awarded to preschool providers and school districts in these communities 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 Big Lift is helping 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. “These well-qualified organizations will help make this ambitious goal a reality, and along with our lead partners, the County of San Mateo and the San Mateo County Office of Education, we are thrilled to be able to support them.”

These grants were made possible by a $15 million investment from San Mateo County’s Measure A tax initiative and by a $7.5 million investment in Silicon Valley Community Foundation by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). In September 2014, CNCS named SVCF as one of seven recipients nationwide of a 2014 Social Innovation Fund grant. 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 Social Innovation Fund fosters public and private collaborations to evaluate and grow innovative community-based solutions that work. In just six years, the SIF and its private-sector partners have invested more than $876 million dollars in compelling community solutions. As a result of $295 million in federal grants and more than $581 million in non-federal match commitments, the SIF has made grants to more than 40 grant-making institutions and 353 nonprofits working in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

“We are proud to support this transformational effort to increase third grade reading proficiency, and therefore the long-term outcomes of San Mateo County’s children,” said Damian Thorman, Director of the Social Innovation Fund. “These latest additions to The Big Lift will lead to brighter futures for even more children.”

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 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 adding three new communities to the Big Lift Family.  It’s tremendously exciting to be extending our efforts to improve third grade reading outcomes to students and families of the Ravenswood, Redwood City, and San Bruno Park School Districts. Their communities have demonstrated they have the collaborative spirit needed to work together on The Big Lift,” 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 look forward to expanding the impact of The Big Lift in the years ahead with our new partners.” 

The Big Lift seeks to address the troubling reality that in San Mateo County, 50 percent of third graders are not reading at grade level. The figure rises to a shocking 73 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.

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 advances innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems. As the largest community foundation in the world, we engage donors and corporations from Silicon Valley, across the country and around the globe to make our region and world better for all. Our passion for helping people and organizations achieve their philanthropic dreams has created a global philanthropic enterprise committed to the belief that possibilities start here. Learn more at