“Genius is distributed equally across racial, gender and socio-economic lines. But right now, opportunity is not.”
Those words were written one year ago by Aaron Walker, CEO of Camelback Ventures, a Walton Family Foundation grantee helping education leaders from underrepresented communities open high-quality schools. He has devoted his professional life to erasing the “artificial lines” that prevent low-income or minority students from reaching their potential.
Aaron’s message is one that resonates deeply with all of us working to fulfil the philanthropic vision set out 30 years ago by Sam and Helen Walton. They believed in a world where people can accomplish anything with opportunity and encouragement.
For the past year, the Walton Family Foundation has celebrated its 30th anniversary by telling the stories of the changemakers in our society – the innovators, visionaries and leaders solving our most difficult problems.
We want to express gratitude to our grantees – the people ‘in the field’ who right wrongs, break down barriers, build coalitions, improve lives and protect endangered places and communities.
We heard the story of Yamilett Carrillo, who has led efforts to increase water flow in the parched Colorado River delta, where many residents had given up hope of ever seeing the river run again. Last year, through her efforts and those of dozens of others, the U.S. and Mexico struck a deal that guaranteed more water for the delta, supporting local economies and improving habitat for vegetation and wildlife.
“We are proving that a river can be restored,” Yamilett says.
We heard from Scott Shirey, who 16 years ago founded the KIPP Delta school network to help provide college opportunities for students in one of the nation’s poorest counties. Scott is guided by a core belief that everyone deserves a first-class education and that “all of us will learn.”
And Sandy Nguyen told us about her work to help protect immigrant fishing families in the Gulf of Mexico whose livelihood is threatened by the rapid loss of coastal wetlands.
“I don't think anybody can rebuild this coast with more heart than our fishermen,” she said. “They have been resilient all their lives.”
The past 30 years have produced hundreds of similar stories – of vision, determination and success – across our work to expand access to high-quality education, protect the oceans and rivers that sustain us, and enhance the quality of life in our foundation’s home region.
While the programs and people are different, their stories are anchored in common themes – creating lasting change and improving access to opportunity for people.
As Alice Walton wrote in this series, the foundation is rooted in a legacy of bold ideas and action.
So are our grantees. We look forward to continuing to build a better world, together.