Founded in 1997, the Barr Foundation has been the leading philanthropist organization pushing and investing in education, the arts and climate change. They have contributed to more than $838 million dollars in charitable causes, according to their website. As of 2016, the Barr foundation has $1.6 billion dollars worth of assets to fund and fuel their philanthropic endeavors in Boston, which they are based in. They have donated to organizations such as Year Up, a non-profit that provides an alternative route for young urban adults who desire a hands-on experience in and around the city and the Massachusetts branch of the Clean Water Fund. They also support visual and performing art ventures such as ArtsE-merson and The Theater Offensive. However, as expanding education is a part of their agenda, they do not make individual scholarships for students to earn.
In October 2018, the Barr Foundation announced their third-quarter grant recipients totalling in $18.6 million. They awarded 16 grants in $4.4 million through its education program. It included grants of $150,000 to various schools around all along the east coast, including the Malden Public School system. Malden’s district directorial staff which includes Dr. Douglas Dias, director of STEM, Sean Walsh, director of Humanities, Natalia Santiago Brennan, director of instructional technology, and Dr. Yvonne Endara, director of ELL traveled to San Diego to attend a conference centered around this grant. Malden High School’s special education program manager Elizabeth Smith also joined them on their venture.
Mr. Walsh explains that the conference was more of “learning excursion than sitting down and talking”. The learning excursion included visiting 4 different high schools, including High Tech High, a San Diego, California based school-development organization that consist a network of charter schools, both primary and secondary schools. This school district is diverse in its education, initiatives and curriculum which is what the foundation is all about.
There are multiple things Mr. Walsh enjoyed about this learning excursion. “They [the schools] had a clear, articulated mission,” he explains. “Each school was very different but they all kind of had a sense of who they were and they wanted to be.” Some schools had a very “personalized learning experience” while others were “very project based.”, some were very plentiful in resources and money and some were not. He loved that they all focused in different pathways; pathways such as college and career readiness, a focus around STEM, and how to be a global citizen.
Special Education manager Elizabeth Smith also weighed in on the journey, calling it “memorable” and a “life changing experience on how we saw education beyond Malden”.
Administrators are not sure when this grant will technically go into effect or what it will specifically go towards.