Bezos Academy, funded by Jeff Bezos’ $2B ‘Day One Fund,’ launches first free school in Seattle area

The Day 1 Academies Fund is gearing up to open the inaugural school in its new network of full scholarship Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.

The nonprofit, backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ $2 billion Day One Fund, will open a new school on Oct. 19 in Des Moines, Wash., just south of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

Bezos first unveiled the Day One Fund two years ago, setting aside $2 billion for the “Day 1 Academies Fund” and the “Day 1 Families Fund,” which addresses homelessness.

The Academies Fund will directly operate the schools for children 3-5 years old using “the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” according to its website.

“Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession,” the website reads. “The child will be the customer. ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ And lighting that fire early is a giant leg up for any child.”

Here’s more about how the fund picks communities to open up its schools:

In selecting communities for our preschools, we consider a wide range of data, including income levels, participation in free and reduced-cost meal programs, and gaps in access to licensed childcare providers. We also look for local organizations and businesses that understand the needs of their community members and are excited about the prospect of hosting a tuition-free, high-quality preschool in their neighborhood.

Mike George, an ex-Amazon vice president who oversaw some of the company’s most successful products, is leading the Academies Fund. George retired from Amazon in July 2017 after nearly 20 years at the tech giant, where he held multiple leadership positions spanning hardware to HR. He was most recently vice president of Echo, Alexa, and the Appstore.

Wesley Homes, a retirement community and facility provider, partnered with the Academies Fund to help open the Des Moines location.

The Day One Fund last year announced initial grants from the Families Fund for organizations that aim to prevent and reduce homelessness.

“Day One” is a reference to Bezos’ mantra at Amazon, that it’s essential to approach every day with the enthusiasm and energy of a new venture because it’s “always Day One.”

Bezos, himself a product of Montessori education, last year announced a separate $10 billion fund to fight climate change.

With Amazon’s market value soaring past $1.5 trillion, Bezos has become the richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of more than $175 billion, positioning him to make a major impact on the world impact with his new philanthropic pursuits.

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