May 12, 2008
Stanford's John W. Gardner Center receives $4 million to foster youth leadership
A $4 million gift matched by Stanford University will establish an $8 million endowment to support the work of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.
The center, which is affiliated with the Stanford School of Education, is a university-community partnership focusing on research, development and dissemination of effective practices for encouraging young people to engage with their communities.
The endowment was made possible by a $4 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation. The gift was recommended to the foundation by Stanford alumni Carrie Walton Penner and her husband, Greg Penner. Stanford's Office of the President will match the gift.
"I believe research universities can and should play a central role in improving the way our nation educates its children," Stanford President John Hennessy said. "We know that experiences outside of school can reinforce what happens in the classroom and influence academic success. Through the work of the John W. Gardner Center, Stanford is able to focus on the broader context in which education occurs and connect critical research and analysis to the real world of schools and communities."
According to Milbrey McLaughlin, the David Jacks Professor of Education and founding director of the center, the creation of the new endowment comes as the seven-year-old centerwhich conducts research, educates the public and works with Bay Area community agencies to seek more effective solutions to the problems affecting youthfaces a critical juncture in its history and development.
"This gift enables the center to maintain a strong core team, and deepen and extend its early promising local policy and program work in Redwood City, Oakland and other Bay Area communities," she said. "The center will also be able to take on an expanded role in generating knowledge and connecting diverse people and organizations to advance their work with children and youth."
In the center's Youth Engaged in Leadership and Learning (YELL) afterschool program, middle and high school students work with the School of Education to develop community service projects and conduct research on issues that impact their lives, such as bullying, stereotyping and gangs. The findings are analyzed and shared with school staff, city councils and school boards, and used to develop better programs and opportunities for youth. The process teaches the participating students research, leadership and communication skills.
The Youth Data Archive, another initiative, allows school districts, city and county agencies, and public and private youth organizations to ask critical research and policy questions affecting young people in their communities. The archive collects and analyzes data from different providers to help community leaders devise more effective programs and policies.
The Walton Family Foundation, established in 1987 by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen, has concentrated much of its giving in the areas of school-district improvement, public charter schools, school choice and Arkansas education.
Carrie Walton Penner, a 1997 graduate of the Stanford School of Education's Administration and Policy Analysis Program, and her husband, Greg, who earned an MBA from Stanford the same year, and the foundation have long admired the work of the center.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to support the John W. Gardner Center and Stanford University," said Carrie Walton Penner, a trustee of the foundation. "The center is addressing significant issues facing our youth in underserved communities. We hope that this gift will encourage others to learn more about the center, as well as allow it to serve youth in additional Bay Area communities."
Anahi Aguilar, a Foothill College student who participated in the YELL program as a middle school student and later as a high school mentor, says that the program has played a key role in promoting positive change among young people.
"To become a leader you need to believe in yourself, in the people who support you and most importantly you need to believe in the success of what you are trying to accomplish," Aguilar said. "The YELL program has become that leader in the community, teaching others of the importance of leadership and community involvement, and more importantly allowing room for voice and expression."
Established in 2000, the John W. Gardner Center was founded on the values, principles and vision of John W. Gardner, a distinguished public servant and longtime social activist who died in 2002. As Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Gardner was instrumental in civil rights enforcement, led the creation of Medicare and helped to establish the public television network. He was the first full-time chairman of the National Urban Coalition and founder of the White House Fellowship Program, Common Cause and Independent Sector. In his later years, Gardner served as a consulting professor at Stanford School of Education.