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The summer before my senior year in college I talked my way into an unpaid internship on Capitol Hill. I was able to have this stimulating, resume- and network-enhancing experience because my parents could afford to keep me clothed, housed and fed In in the nation’s capital for 10 weeks.
That’s an advantage not available to lower-income students, even those who’ve gone attending an outstanding high school like those run by charter operator KIPP. A handful of KIPP seniors are about to get a shot at the financial flexibility to build their networks in college, to breathe a bit easier about making ends meet while they pursue their careers.
The program is called the Dave Goldberg Scholarship Program, and it is being funded by the foundation started by Sheryl Sandberg, whose husband and the namesake for the initiative, would have turned 50 today. Sandberg, the Facebook (fb) chief operating officer and bestselling author on women’s empowerment and dealing with grief, is one of best known business executives in the country. Her late husband was one of the best liked—and best connected—executives in Silicon Valley. He was a humble, intelligent, smiling force for good in a community more often known for cut-throat competitiveness than lending a helping hand.
What makes the program so cool is that it will activate Goldberg’s network, even though he has been gone for a little over two years now. About 4,600 high school seniors associated with KIPP will be eligible to apply to become a “Goldie Scholar.” Each of the 15 winners—Sandberg has committed to fund the program for five years—will receive an annual stipend of $15,000, will be paired with a mentor (a group initially made up of Goldberg’s many accomplished friends), and will be plugged into a network of “connectors” who will help them find internships and jobs. (I was a friend of Goldberg’s and more than once a beneficiary of his network; I have volunteered to be a connector.)
KIPP is a natural choice for Sandberg’s philanthropy. Its CEO, Richard Barth, was a Harvard classmate of Goldberg’s. “We’re all trying to figure out how to make sure this amazing country remains this amazing country and that where you’re born need not dictate where you end up,” says Barth. The program is something those who loved Goldberg most are confident would have excited him. “Connecting people was just a pleasure for Dave,” says his brother Rob, CEO of the L.A.-based digital entertainment studio Fresno.
As a more careful observer of the tech scene than education policy, I was curious to know what KIPP stands for. The 23-year-old organization’s name comes from the expression Knowledge is Power. The creation of the Goldie Scholars program is an acknowledgment that knowledge isn’t enough. The adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters,” may be curtly incomplete. But Dave Goldberg was a guy who knew a lot, cared a lot, and knew a lot of people. This program is a fitting legacy for him.