With little fanfare, back in 1997, Laurene Powell Jobs and Carlos Watson co-founded College Track in Palo Alto, CA. She worked behind the scenes then, but is now beginning to find her voice. With a net worth of $11.7 billion, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, has become more visible in her philanthropy and her political causes since her husband’s death. More visible, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that she has always been an advocate for education reform for minority and low income students.
College Track, a non-profit organization, was created to help disadvantaged, first-generation college students increase their graduation rate, and in the areas where College Track operates, the numbers are impressive. About 70 percent of College Track’s high school graduates finish college in six years, compared to the national average of 24 percent of first generation college students. College Track now has facilities in East Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Aurora, CO. There’s a wait list of five cities hoping to have a center.
While Powell Jobs does not disclose how much financial support she provides the organization, each year, Pixar, a company Steve Jobs helped begin, sells tickets to a screening of a film which benefits College Track. In 2013, tickets for a screening of “Monsters University” sold for $1,000.
She is a supporter of the DREAM Act in Congress, has spoken to the media about its importance and commissioned a documentary called “The Dream Is Now.” The 30-minute film, produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, is available for viewing on a web site she created. She’s shown the film to members of Congress as well.
Politically, as a high-profile donor to “Ready for Hillary,” she donated $25,000 to the super PAC in early 2014. She’s donated to political campaigns of Democratic candidates in California, in addition to supporting school reform. Her support goes beyond the California border to support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). She’s been a fundraiser for Americans for Responsible Solutions, an anti-gun violence group.
Powell Jobs is both founder and chair woman of the Emerson Collective, which is structured like a small business rather than a charitable organization. The advantage is that they can make grants, investments and donations without the same reporting regulations of a foundation. The Emerson Collective concentrates on advancing social reform through entrepreneurship.
She has a seat on the boards of directors of College Track, The Foundation for Excellence in Education, NewSchools Venture Fund, Conservation International and Stanford University.
Her public profile increased in January 2012 when she sat next to the First Lady during the State of the Union address. She stands as a visible and recognizable advocate of immigration reform along with top technology company executives, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, that support reform as well.