Pharrell Williams, The Walton Family Foundation Plan to Tackle Disparities in K-12 Education
Photo Credit: Josh Brasted/FilmMagic

Pharrell Williams, The Walton Family Foundation Plan to Tackle Disparities in K-12 Education

The Walton Family Foundation — derived from Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton — aims to continue to tackle issues in K-12 education in its new five-year strategic plan.

For more than three decades, the foundation’s focus has been on three core objectives: protecting rivers, oceans, and the communities they support, advancing its home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta, and improving K-12 education.

Three visionaries including: Marc Sternberg, head of the Walton Family Foundation K-12 Education program; artist and entrepreneur, Pharrell Williams; president of Echoing Green, Cheryl Dorsey; and co-founder of The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education, Liz Thompson gathered to share not only their perspectives but also speak about issues within K-12 education.

“Over the past five years, we’ve been encouraged by the vision of new education leaders who are creating new, innovative school models that set students on a path to careers of the future and to secure and fulfilling lives,” said Sternberg. “But we must also confront the fact that our K-12 system still tolerates a significant opportunity gap. Over the next five years, we plan to do more to foster creativity within communities and to support locally-demanded, locally-designed, and locally-driven solutions.”

Solutions within a learning system that Williams says are different for everyone.

“Everybody processes information differently,” shared Williams. “And when the system is set up for only a mind that thinks or processes information one way, everybody else is out back.”

Williams also shared how his platform Yellow aims to even the odds through education.

“What we want to do is get into sensory-based assessment and learning, so what is determined when you’re three-four-years-old, how you process information, you have curriculum based on that,” Williams said. “This is what we’re working on at Yellow.”

Williams also shared the importance of mentorship, something that Thompson is dedicated to through a partnership between The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education and The Walton Family Foundation — The 1954 Project. 

This partnership launched with seed funding from both foundations’ goals to raise at least $100 million in partnership with the Black philanthropic community and allies over the next five years to support Black educators and education leaders across the U.S.

“The partnership that we created with the Walton Family Foundation, and [Pharrell] you know about this because you’ve been such a great partner with us in this along with Walton, is The 1954 Project,” said Thompson. “When we decided that we wanted to figure out a way to increase the number of Black educators, not only in the classroom but those running nonprofit organizations that support educators, we decided it had to be led by Black people in philanthropy. Many times our voices are not represented at the table.”

The Walton Family Foundation is committed to propelling upward with their work over the next five years by Increasing Achievement & Opportunity, Fostering Diverse, Durable Coalitions for the Future, and Accelerating Breakthrough Innovation.

For more on The Walton Family Foundation’s full strategic plan, click here.

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