Our Beginning in the Workplace
Founded by Freada Kapor Klein in 2001, our organization was first known as the "Institute for Inclusive Work Environments." Frustrated by the inability of the for-profit world to foster diversity, and having already spent nearly three decades consulting to organizations on issues of discrimination and diversity, Freada aimed to tackle the problem from a different vantage point. She created a non-profit to rigorously and creatively address not just why diversity efforts had failed, but how diversity could succeed - also focusing on improving civility, fairness, and opportunity in workplaces.
Broadening the Vision at UC Berkeley
Beyond Freada's passion for troubleshooting workplace issues, Freada was also concerned about the plight of underserved, underrepresented students of color in higher education. During her tenure on the Executive Board of the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley, Freada and three colleagues founded the Bay Area Scholarship Awards (later known as the Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership [IDEAL], in response to the passage of Prop 209.
Recognizing the importance of educational preparation for access to good jobs, the focus area of the Institute for Inclusive Work Environments was expanded to incorporate higher education, thus prompting the name change to "Level Playing Field Institute." IDEAL became the institute's first in-house higher education program.
Developing a Pipeline of Young Scholars
While IDEAL helps students navigate and graduate from higher education system, SMASH helps students of color prepare and apply for higher education. Recognizing the need for a pipeline of highly qualified Bay Area scholars who are prepared for college, LPFI started assessing the opportunities that students from well-resourced schools have; we then sought to close the gap as much as possible for Bay Area students of color without those resources. For example, small classes, high expectations, customized college counseling, and field trips are all part of the educational experience for students from well-resourced schools.
The SMASH Academy was inspired by and loosely modeled after Math and Science for Minority Students [(MS)2], a program that has been running for more than 25 years at Phillips Academy Andover. Using (MS)2 as a model, SMASH launched a residential summer program in 2004. That first year, we worked with incoming tenth grade students who participated in an academic residential summer program at UC Berkeley. In 2006 we added a year-round academic program, based on student requests. In 2007, we saw 100% of our first class of scholars apply to and enter college. Today, we are expanding the program to assist more students in California and have an expansion plan that includes bringing SMASH nationwide by 2016.