Meredith Olson Appointed President as VELA Education Fund Plans New Round of Funding in 2021
Experienced K-12 leader poised to accelerate education innovation across the country
February 3, 2021
As it prepares to release plans for a new round of funding, the VELA Education Fund announced today that experienced K-12 education leader Meredith Olson will lead the organization as President.
Olson was a founding member of VELA’s Board and was instrumental in the organization’s development over the course of 2019 and 2020.
“The idea for VELA is in Meredith’s bones,” said Marc Sternberg, K-12 Education Program Director at the Walton Family Foundation and a VELA Board Member. “Her vision for this work, and for what VELA can become, predates the COVID-19 crisis, and will endure after it, and promises to reach and support legions of parents and educators in every corner of the country.”
In taking on the President position for VELA, Olson will build on her experience as Vice President of K12 Initiatives for Stand Together. Olson said this transition is a natural progression of the work she has been leading for years.
“My focus has long been on ensuring an individualized education for every person, and I deeply believe VELA is well-positioned to further that goal, now more than ever before,” Olson said. “The pandemic has dramatically increased awareness of unconventional, human-centered education models, and as VELA plots its course for 2021, I am committed to accelerating adoption by more families and communities.”
VELA launched in August 2020, and responded to the needs created by the pandemic with the Meet the Moment grant program, which focused on supporting students and families. Working with five funding partners, VELA awarded over $2.1 million to more than 240 grantees in 41 states and Puerto Rico.
Many Meet the Moment grantees represent the student-centric education models and experiences that VELA plans to emphasize in its next round of funding, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Families are showing increased interest in programs like the Zucchinis Homeschool Coop in Atlanta, which parents came together to form during the pandemic, and Engaged Detroit, which offers families another option for their children besides Detroit’s struggling district and charter schools.
VELA has also directly awarded grants that support innovative models and resources, including to comparatively more mature programs like Prenda and 100 Roads. In total, VELA has awarded more than $3.6 million to accelerate education innovation and opportunity for every learner.
Olson, the mother of four children, serves as chairman of yes. every kid., an organization committed to education policies that respect the dignity of every student, foster a diversity of approaches, and promote the free flow of ideas and innovation. She is also actively involved in the community, serving on the boards of Rainbows United Inc. and WSU Tech, where she is currently board chair.
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