The Foundation concluded operations on December 31, 2020. Learn more.

Education Program: Investing in Knowledge, Skills, and Character

Excited elementary school girl using microscope in private science class

Dear Colleagues and Partners,

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. has had a steadfast interest in improving STEM education for young students. For many years, the Foundation funded STEM programs in after-school settings and informal science institutions for younger students, as well as engineering scholarships for undergraduate students.

The Foundation’s decision to sunset in 2020 created an opportunity to invest significant resources in the short-term, enabling the Foundation to advance models that would illuminate the path toward successful implementation of new statewide standards. As a result, today the Foundation’s STEM work is accomplished through three major initiatives made timely by the adoption of California State Standards for Math and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Together, these three initiatives – Math in Common, NGSS K–8 Early Implementers, and CSU New Generation of Educators – support the professional development of current and future teachers across a range of districts (small and large, urban and rural) as well as at CSU campuses, in service of preparing teachers across the state for success in inquiry-based, experiential education for our state’s children and youth. We invite you to view these summaries:

Math portfolio strategy snapshot (PDF)
Science portfolio strategy snapshot (PDF)
Teacher preparation portfolio strategy snapshot (PDF)

In addition to STEM, the Foundation has long supported local youth development programs in the Bay Area in line with Mr. Bechtel’s commitment to building character in young people. In 2013, at his urging – and as the culminating expression of this commitment to young people – the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation launched the National Character Initiative, aimed at materially improving the state of practice in child and youth character development nationally. Grants made through the Initiative go to national organizations that work at scale to develop youth with strong character and commitment to service and community. Funding supports grantees in testing models and developing systems for measuring and improving adult practice, as well as equipping those who mentor youth with the tools, knowledge, and resources to guide young people as they grow into responsible, caring, productive adults of integrity. You can read more:

Character strategy snapshot (PDF)

The Foundation’s STEM initiatives combined with the National Character Initiative comprise the whole of the Foundation’s commitment in the education arena through 2020.

We are happy to share brief snapshots of each of these major lines of work. They describe the goals, outcomes, approaches, and commitments to learning and evaluation for each initiative. We hope you will be interested in receiving regular updates of our progress along the way.


Susan Harvey
Director, Education