President and Chief Executive Officer
Location: Mount Laurel Township, NJ
In 1992, the Schwartz Foundation created Foundations, Inc. to build the foundational skills for children to succeed in school and life. Philanthropist Robert Schwartz had a mission to create fun afterschool programs with academic content and engaging activities — especially in underserved communities.
At the time, Rhonda H. Lauer was associate superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, and the Schwartz Foundation provided financial support to help expand after-school programs in city schools. Impressed by Lauer’s resourceful leadership, Robert Schwartz brought her on to lead Foundations, Inc., where she serves as president and CEO.
Lauer’s vision for Foundations, Inc. was to expand the organization’s work to reach children everywhere they learn, bridging the gap between the school day and out-of-school time. Lauer believes the way to make the most significant impact on children is by strengthening the skills of the adults who work with them. Over the past 25 years, under Lauer’s leadership, Foundations, Inc. has grown into a national organization, a go-to resource for professional learning and a respected voice on hot topics in education.
In the coming years, the nonprofit is focusing on digital literacy, including cybersecurity, evaluating the authenticity of online sources and digital citizenship. These are essential skills for kids from pre-K through high school and beyond. One of the goals of Foundations, Inc. for the next five years is to ensure that all children are fully equipped to be competent digital citizens, the organization said.
“We have established ourselves in the greater education community as a thought leader, and it is important for us to live up to that reputation,” Lauer said. “We are unique among education nonprofits in that we operate after-school programs ourselves so that we stay connected with the day-to-day reality of the work. We pride ourselves in being grounded in practice, allowing that firsthand experience to inform everything we do.”
In 2008, Lauer received the first Pennsylvania State Representative Dwight Evans Leadership Award. In 2016, she was presented with the Urban Affairs Coalition’s Community Leadership Award for improving the quality of life for children, families and communities. In 2017, Lauer was selected as the prestigious Champion of Children Award recipient.
“As a compassionate listener and problem solver, she unites organizations and makes connections that enable the successful integration of school day and out-of-school time learning,” Lauer’s team said about their leader. “Rhonda has a keen eye for professional matchmaking, bringing together diverse groups to achieve common goals.
Rhonda makes a mean mac and cheese. Someday she would like to enter her mac and cheese recipe into a cooking contest. She is also always the first one out on the dance floor!
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