Our Story Title

Our Story

It all started with one Wall Street analyst and a bold vision.

WORLDFUND was founded in December 2002 by former Wall Street executive Luanne Zurlo. By carefully selecting pedagogical partners and building alliances with local education authorities, Worldfund has swiftly become the premier U.S. non-profit dedicated exclusively to improving basic K-12 education in Latin America. All of our programs emphasize the teacher-student bond and focus on critical skills for personal growth and employability.

Wordfund’s programs have evolved dramatically over the decade. Initially, we invested in exemplary private schools serving the poor that deliver quality academics and integrate the whole family. Today Worldfund continues to support five schools in Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, and Peru.

In 2007 Worldfund identified the region’s key need – teacher quality – and moved nimbly to address it. We began to roll-out intensive training programs for teachers and principals in the region’s vast public school systems. Unlike bricks and mortar, these programs can scale quickly and reach thousands more children – exponentially – per year. A teacher whose career is likely to span 40 years can positively impact thousands of children; the same holds true for a school principal. Furthermore, research clearly indicates that teacher quality is a key driver of school quality.

Our training programs –IAPELISTO and STEM Brasil– are designed to inspire teachers to attain the highest standards of the profession. They are multi-year courses delivered in-person in the region by local Worldfund-trained trainers. Featuring world-class content, the programs help educators take charge of learning outcomes, engage students, and develop assignments that encourage creative problem solving. They also support and mentor educators as they embrace their vital role in society.

To date, Worldfund has trained over 6,500 teachers and principals in Brazil and Mexico.

With your help, we can create a growing corps of skilled educators across Latin America who can create lasting change in their communities.

About Worldfund founder Luanne Zurlo

While visiting a school in Mexico City during a business trip in 2000, Luanne Zurlo learned about the lack of quality education available for most Latin American children. She then spent two months visiting schools serving needy children in the region, and returned determined to make a difference. She left Goldman Sachs and a successful nine-year career on Wall Street to start World Education & Development Fund, Worldfund, in December 2002.

It was so obvious to me that education was a key factor behind the huge skills gap in Latin America,

she said, based on her time covering companies in the region, which she had come to love. “But the job wasn’t making me happy after nine years … I wanted to try to give back to the region.” For the next three years, Zurlo ran Worldfund from her apartment, living off her savings, working long hours. She started out by raising funds to offer scholarship and construction funding to needy schools, many of them Catholic, in the region.

Her firm convictions about education kept her going. Her grandparents – European immigrants with only a sixth grade education -- earned their GEDs as octogenarians, the same year Luanne graduated from Dartmouth College. Luanne also has degrees from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Columbia Business School. But in between, she taught for a year in an impoverished town in northern Spain, an eye-opening experience.

Education is a human right,” said Luanne. “Every child should have access to a great education like I did.

Soon, her investment and passion paid off. Worldfund built a committed board of top executives and attracted sponsorship from major corporations and individuals in the U.S. and Latin America. In 2007 one of Worldfund’s programs, the Inter-American Partnership for Education, became a Clinton Global Initiative. In 2011 Worldfund was honored internationally when Luanne received the Latin Trade Humanitarian of the Year Award. Today, Worldfund has raised over $26 million and is recognized by Charity Navigator as a model of fiscal transparency for two consecutive years.

Luanne might have felt burned-out after an intense nine years on Wall Street, yet she credits the experience with equipping her with the skills needed to manage and run a growing non-profit with an ambitious mission. In addition, she has become a go-to expert in the field of international education, and teaches a graduate seminar on Education in Developing Countries at Catholic University.

The work of education reform is extraordinarily challenging,” Luanne said. “But it’s all worth it when you see the teachers responding to the training and the students coming alive in class. I know we are making a difference.
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