Press Release - May 27, 2015

The Big Lift, A Bold Social Venture That Aims To Transform Early Learning In San Mateo County, Launches Today

Nearly 900 underserved children, from four communities, will benefit from high-quality preschool and other connected learning experiences

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Hundreds of San Mateo County leaders in education, government and business gathered Wednesday to mark the launch of The Big Lift, a nationally recognized initiative to ensure that all children in the county can read proficiently by third grade, paving the way for their future success and helping the county create a diverse and educated workforce. 

More than $4.3 million will be awarded to preschool providers and school districts in four communities, which will develop programs to serve nearly 900 preschool students, Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced. The districts that were selected in a competitive process to receive grants are Cabrillo Unified School District, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Jefferson Elementary School District and South San Francisco Unified School District.

“The Big Lift will prepare young children in our high-need communities for success as learners and will ultimately benefit our whole region,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom. “We are proud to support these school districts as they bring the promise of The Big Lift into their classrooms.”

The Big Lift is led by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 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. With these initial Big Lift grants, recipient districts and their co-lead agencies will work together to develop high-quality preschool and summer programs, focus on reducing absenteeism and engage parents and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.

  • Preschools located in the Cabrillo Unified School District, including Coastside Children’s Programs, the Institute for Human and Social Development (Head Start), and the district’s migrant education preschool, will receive grants totaling $677,170 to serve about 100 preschool children. The district will work with co-lead agencies Cabrillo Education Foundation and Coastside Children’s Programs.
  • Preschools located in the Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City, including the Institute for Human and Social Development (Head Start), Peninsula Family  Service and the district’s own preschool program,  will receive grants totaling $1,445,356 to serve about 390 preschool children. The district will work with co-lead agency Daly City Peninsula Partnership Collaborative.
  • La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District will receive a grant of $279,557 to serve 32 preschool children. Its co-lead agency is Puente de la Costa Sur.
  • Preschools located in the South San Francisco Unified School District, including the Institute for Human and Social Development (Head Start), Peninsula Family Service, the City of South San Francisco and the school district’s preschool program will receive grants of $1,944,161 to serve 375 preschool children. The district will work with co-lead agencies the City of South San Francisco and Peninsula Family Service.

The Big Lift grants were made possible in part by an initial contribution of $10 million from San Mateo County Measure A sales tax funds. The Measure A sales tax was approved by San Mateo County voters in 2012. Those local funds allowed Silicon Valley Community Foundation to leverage funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Last fall, 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 SVCF will provide $7.5 million to increase the reading proficiency of children in San Mateo County through 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 initiative’s success.

“The Social Innovation Fund is excited about the work being done through The Big Lift in order to increase reading proficiency of students in the San Mateo County area,” said Lois Nembhard, Acting Director of the Social Innovation Fund. “By providing high quality instruction and increasing their capacity to serve more children in need, the preschool providers and the school districts selected are poised to advance what works through evidence-based programming.”

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 an alarming 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.

For more information about The Big Lift, visit


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

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