Giving Kids a Chance with a 25-Year Old Public/Private Partnership Innovation

I use whatever connections I have anywhere and everywhere." That's former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill on how he patched together a partnership 25 years ago between the New York City Schools, the Teacher's Union, and Wall Street to found the National Academy Foundation. It also describes how he operates on behalf of his other charitable activities and investments. As reported by, Weill explains:

"In the 1980s I would drive around New York City, and I would see kids on the street. New York was in danger of having many large companies—including financial services companies—leave. High school education had to be reformed, so I went to [then New York City Schools Chancellor] Frank Macchiarola. I also reached out to Sandy Feldman, who was the No. 2 at the Teacher's Union at the time. [Feldman subsequently became the head of the Teacher's Union.]

In 1982, NAF was born at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn. The Academy of Finance was first. Travel & Tourism came about as a result of American Express' involvement in the 1980s. And our IT academy was the result of a breakfast I put together in 1999 that raised $8 million. Education is really the key that can unlock the door to a person's future."

Today there are 130 Academies of Hospitality and Tourism, 159 Academies of Information Technology, and 318 Academies of Finance located in 40 states with the support of more than 2,000 corporations, including the likes of Lucent, AT&T, United Technologies, GTE/Verizon, Oracle, Computer Associates and Compaq.

NAF recently received a major award from the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy "not only for the reputation NAF has built over the years, but also for creating a systemic solution to education hurdles in under-served communities."

It's innovation borne from an unwillingness to see boundaries between the sectors, and from passion, vision and a ton of elbow grease -- formula we're glad to be seeing more and more of in our sector.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 16, 2007 in Education | Permalink | Comment