Education is incredibly important to Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and the wife of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Chan told TODAY that her parents fled their home country hoping to find a better future, but, unfortunately, they didn't understand the education system in the United States. This meant her mother was stuck working two jobs and Chan had to translate for her grandparents, who only spoke Cantonese. Now, Chan donates millions to schools in California. In October, she and Zuckerberg announced The Primary School, a nonprofit institution that will provide education and health care, side by side, to its K-12 students, according to CNN. Chan's vision for The Primary School is a creative and brilliant idea to improve education.
Chan and Zuckerberg announced Tuesday that they would donate 99 percent of their Facebook fortune to charity, according to the New York Times. That sounds like a remarkable amount, but the couple has already donated hundreds of thousands to schools in New Jersey and the Bay Area. Chan's personal connection to education and health care and the duo's commitment to philanthropy led them to fund The Primary School, which is scheduled to open in August 2016 in East Palo Alto, California, according to CNN. The school will be funded by the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Donor Advised Fund, so though it will be private, the school will be entirely free for all of its students. The Primary School will be geared toward low-income students, and, in some cases, it will accept students before they are born and will provide prenatal care to families, according to CNN.
In a Facebook post, Chan said that two things led her to realize that education and reliable health care need to go hand in hand: her experience running an after-school program in a low-income housing project and her time working as a pediatrician in a hospital for low-income or uninsured people:
The effects of trauma and chronic stress create an invisible burden for children that makes it very difficult for them to be healthy and live up to their academic potential. We must address these issues holistically in order to allow children to succeed. For the past year, our small team has been working with East Palo Alto and Belle Haven families, educators and leaders to develop a model to address these complex needs.
Chan's background in both education — she was a teacher before she went to medical school — and medicine have helped her realized that educational success is inextricably linked to proper health care. The Centers for Disease Control found that "health-risk behaviors" like early sexual activity, violence, and physical inactivity are linked to poor grades and lower test scores. Over time, health-risk behaviors during early education can lead to poorer educational attainment.
Chan will serve as the school's CEO and said the school will stress parental involvement, according to NBC News. A spokesperson for the project told NBC that Chan is "passionate about this work because it's an opportunity to change the trajectory of kids' lives in her local community." It's clear that, for Chan, making a difference should start as early as possible.