Innovating Silicon Valley Classrooms

—Melissa Fraterrigo

Photo: Thomas Sanders, '15 MFA Photography

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Silicon Valley is known for phones, technology, computers and soon—as a result of the work of Muhammed Chaudhry—education innovation. Chaudhry, ’04 Finance, is CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), which combines programming and resources to “prepare students for the incredible opportunity of Silicon Valley.”

When Chaudhry joined the Franklin-McKinley Education Foundation and predecessor to today’s SVEF 2001, it was housed in a trailer behind a middle school on San Jose’s East Side. Yet he saw beyond the organization’s humble abode. “It had an incredible mission and captured my imagination.” Chaudhry, a lifelong resident of the Bay Area who attended its schools, admits a great love for all San Jose has to offer. He remains less than enthused about the valley’s incredible wealth and poverty, and realized only a new approach to learning could tackle such economic disparity. With time, he found himself “obsessed with the notion of preparing students for college and careers.”

Under Chaudhry’s leadership, the foundation partners with corporations such as Oracle and Chevron to bring technology and entrepreneurs together. SVEF then introduces these innovations into the classroom, along with instruction in math and science, subjects deemed necessary to build the area’s future workforce. For instance, the SVEF program Elevate Math capitalizes on research that shows a correlation between whether or not a student graduates college in five years and their mastery of Algebra II. During the summer of 2014, teachers were offered a week of intensive professional development and more than 1,000 eighth-graders received 75 hours of instruction to successfully complete Algebra I. Some students advanced a full year in their math studies.

Chaudhry’s efforts to prepare young people in Silicon Valley for college and careers are transforming public education—and expanding the reach of SVEF. Chaudhry, who previously worked in management in the for-profit world, has applied his experience to grow the SVEF from three employees and a $150,000 budget to a 17-member staff with a $5.5 million budget and $4.5 million in assets.

Currently, SVEF aims to make Silicon Valley high school graduates the best prepared to complete college in the state. This goal will forever change the face of education in Silicon Valley and allow Muhammed Chaudhry to give back to his beloved community. “Education is the heart of systematic change,” he says. “I want to spend my time doing something valuable with lasting impact.”

 

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