A Message from Eli Kennedy, CEO | Winter 2016

Dear LPFI Supporter,

It’s been almost a year since I became the CEO of the Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) with a mandate to launch the national expansion of the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH). During LPFI’s 15-year history, Mitch and Freada Kapor have made great strides to level the playing field for underrepresented youth of color interested in pursuing STEM careers. Close to 1,000 SMASH scholars have been prepared to thrive, enrich our economy, and build wealth for themselves, their families, and communities. Yet, demand to participate in SMASH far exceeds capacity.

LPFI must expand nationally. I have dedicated my career to educational equity and I am thrilled to continue the work that I’m so passionate about with an amazing team. This year we’ve invested in building internal capacity to support expansion, launched new partner SMASH sites, and vetted new potential partners. It is critical to build on this momentum in 2017. Now more than ever, our SMASH scholars need our collective support as they consider their futures in the post-election climate.

We accomplished the following milestones during 2016:

  • Welcomed almost 300 high school students of color to SMASH 2016 at UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford University and new in 2016, UC Davis. Scholars benefitted from residential life on a college campus, experiencing “aha” moments in STEM, and participating in Networking Nights with employees from local corporations like Oracle and Genentech, and so much more!
  • Launched SMASH Pathways for rising 9th grade students at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in preparation for a full SMASH rollout in 2017.  
  • Led preliminary expansion conversations with 12 universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Howard University, Johns Hopkins, Loyola Marymount, Wayne State and NYU.   
  • Developed a SMASH Alumni Network program in partnership with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT).  SMASH alumni college freshmen will be connected to MLT’s Ascend program which offers one-on-one college persistence, career coaching and access to internships.    
  • Built internal capacity to support national expansion with the hiring of 4 new staff who will ensure that our curriculum complements the innovation economy, offers a deeper dive into computer science, and that our evaluation and research outcomes inform our programming for students.

The groundwork is laid so that we can get off to a running start for 2017. We’re looking forward to achieving the following milestones:

  • Welcoming 350 high school students of color to SMASH 2017
  • Launching SMASH 2017 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia following this summer’s successful SMASH Pathways program.
  • Confirming at least two new national expansion sites.
  • Helping SMASH scholars and their families navigate the challenges that the new administration may present.  
  • Continuing the evolution of our Computer Science curriculum which has been developed with the National Science Foundation.
  • Implementing the SMASH Alumni Network program in partnership with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) to assist SMASH scholars with college persistence and career planning.

We remain committed to helping our scholars build a 21st century foundation empowering them to improve their lives, communities, and the nation as the next generation of innovators and social change agents.

Thank you for your partnership in this urgent and life-changing work.

Happy Holidays!


Eli Kennedy