Facebook CEO unveils foundation, $100M donation

Zuckerberg makes friends with more than 40,000 students in Newark, N.J.

Following a day of frenzied reports about an upcoming $100 million donation to a struggling school system, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced the creation of a new foundation called Startup: Education.

Zuckerberg is seeding the foundation with the "initial gift" of $100 million to the Newark, N.J. school system. Zuckerberg is scheduled to announce his donation later today on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

And the Facebook founder isn't alone in his efforts. This morning, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker announced the creation of the Newark Education and Youth Development Fund, a separate nonprofit organization with the goal of raising an additional $100 million, as well as an additional $50 million to serve disaffected youth.

"I feel very fortunate for the opportunities I've been given because of my education, including the chance to work with talented people and build a great company at such a young age," Zuckerberg said in a blog post. "Rather than waiting until later in life to focus on giving back, I've spent a lot of the last year researching and looking for the most impactful ways to improve education starting in America."

Zuckerberg added that he decided to put his full support behind Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help in their efforts to reform the schools in Newark.

"Newark has unfortunately become a symbol of public education's failure -- of a status quo that accepts schools that don't succeed," he wrote. "In 2009, only 40% of kids could read and write at grade level by the end of third grade, only 54% of high school students graduated and just 38% enrolled in college. Going to a school with boarded up windows and broken glass should not be a part of our education experience."

The plan to get Newark's schools back on their feet includes the installation of a new school superintendent, and the creation of a new education plan that includes rewarding excellence in teaching and student achievement, according to Zuckerberg.

While the $100 million donation should help the more than 40,000 students in Newark, it's also expected to do some good for Zuckerberg's tarnished image.

In recent months, Facebook has taken a verbal beating from users angered and frustrated over the site's privacy policies and tools. And in the past month, instant messages that Zuckerberg has since admitted sending while he was in college have come to light, giving users an image of a young man a bit drunk on power and cavalier with users' privacy.

On top of all of that, the movie The Social Network is set to be released Oct. 1, detailing the creation of Facebook and Zuckerberg's rise to fame and fortune. According to published reports, the movie doesn't paint the Facebook founder in an entirely positive light.

Industry analysts have noted that Zuckerberg's massive donation, along with an appearance with the incredibly popular Winfrey later today, may be a good shot in the arm for his image, and for the social networking site behind him.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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