While visiting a school in Mexico City during a business trip in 2000, Wall Street executive Luanne Zurlo learned about the lack of quality education available for most Latin American children. She then spent two months visiting schools and 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.
Luanne Zurlo spent 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. 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 (IAPE), became a Clinton Global Initiative. In 2011 Worldfund was honored internationally when Luanne received the Latin Trade Humanitarian of the Year Award.
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.”
Worldfund raised over US$ 30 million to be invested in Mexico and Brazil
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.
STEM Brasil teacher Paulo Henrique do Nascimento and his students at a public school in Paraíba, Brazil
Worldfund has trained over 8,000 teachers and principals in Mexico and Brazil
- We believe a quality education is every person’s human right
- We believe education is a cornerstone of individual actualization, civic health and economic growth
- We believe teachers and principals are key to learning
- We believe raising educational quality in Latin America requires changing mindsets and practices of teachers and principals
- We believe high performing educators have an extraordinarily valuable and difficult vocation and deserve to be treated with great respect
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. 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 – IAPE, LISTO 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.
With your help, we can create a growing corps of skilled educators across Latin America who can create lasting change in their communities. Donate now!
Mr. Fabio Barbosa was honored by Worldfund at the Gala 2017
Board of Directors
- Steven Shindler, Co-Chair, Chairman, NII Holdings, Inc.
- Luanne Zurlo, Co-Chair, Founder, Worldfund
- Cecilia Bilesio, TENARIS
- Denise Damiani, Director, Denise Damiani Consulting
- Mark Denham, Partner, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, LLP
- Marcelo Gleiser, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Dartmouth College
- Claudio X. González Guajardo, President, Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad
- Tara Kenney, Senior Vice President, Boston Common Asset Management
- Carlos Labarthe, President, Gentera
- Mimi Lichtenstein
- Arturo López Martín, Chief Investment Officer, Cinepolis
- Marcos Magalhães, President, Instituto de Co-Responsabilidade pela Educação
- Bradshaw McKee, Managing Director, Gramercy Funds Management
- Lisandro Miguens, Head of Latin America Debt Capital Markets, JPMorgan
- Stefano Natella
- Balbina Sada de Garza
- Katherine Shea Westra, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley
- Ronaldo Stern, Managing Director, HStern
- Jane Winslow