A free and excellent public education is the right of every child, and a democratic society will only succeed if there exists an educated public. Public education is, therefore, a moral imperative -- a process in which every child is enabled to reach his/her God-given potential. In this week the Department of Religion brings to the conversation on this perspective on Public Education experts in the field of education from both the private and public sectors.
Rajiv Vinnakota is co-founder and managing director of The SEED Foundation. The SEED Foundation is a national nonprofit that partners with urban communities to provide innovative educational opportunities that prepare under served students for success in college and beyond. The SEED Foundation is a catalyst for change in urban education: it developed the SEED boarding school model and opened its first school, The SEED School of Washington, D.C., in 1998. The SEED Foundation opened its second school in Maryland in August 2008. SEED's innovative model integrates a rigorous academic program with a nurturing boarding program, which teaches life skills and provides a safe and secure environment. This boarding school model provides a comprehensive solution to the challenges facing urban students and serves as a prototype for expansion nationwide. SEED's model has proven successful: 97 percent of SEED graduates have been accepted to college and 90 percent have immediately enrolled in college.
Prior to co-founding SEED, Rajiv Vinnakota was an associate at Mercer Management Consulting, where he worked on strategic and financial projects in a variety of industries. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in molecular biology and a certificate of studies from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy. Raj has been an Echoing Green fellow and an Ashoka fellow. For his work at The SEED Foundation he was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine and has received the Manhattan Institute's Outstanding Social Entrepreneurship Award, the Princeton Club of Washington's Community Service Award, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award, an Innovations in American Government Award from Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, an Oprah Winfrey "Use Your Life" Award and two Fast Company/Monitor Group's Social Capitalist Awards. He served on the board of The Empower Program, which works with youth to end the culture of violence, and is a former trustee of Princeton University. He currently sits on Oprah Winfrey's Board of Advisors.