LIGHT Awards

Issue Areas


The Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation is committed to funding organizations that identify, recruit, mentor, develop and recognize superior teaching. The Foundation seeks to create environments in which teachers and students can flourish.

Since beginning its work with RPA in 2008, the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation has both narrowed its focus and expanded the scope of its work. Today, in addition to funding high-quality organizations that support teachers, the Foundation has created its own grant program called the LIGHT (Leveraging Innovation by Growing and Honoring Teachers) Awards, now in its third year.

For years, founder Karen Leshner focused her philanthropy on supporting teachers in the United States. Seeing first-hand the impact effective and engaged teachers had on her own children, Karen realized the power every teacher has to change hundreds of lives over the course of their career. But she also noticed that unlike the corporate world in which her career was based, where professional development and R&D resources were plentiful, teachers did not have access to the same tools to advance their skills and invigorate their careers.

In creating the LIGHT Awards, RPA led the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation through a thoughtful program-design process that emphasized input from educators. It involved benchmarking, focus groups and a retreat attended by current and former teachers, and was capped off by a pilot year of LIGHT Awards grants to selected teams of teachers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

The LIGHT Awards program provides teachers with support and the agency to decide how to best use funds for their own professional learning and growth. With 27 funded projects to date, the program offers multi-year grants to teams of teachers designing innovative professional development programs. The LIGHT Awards team also organizes a convening each year to honor the teachers for their hard work as educators and to build community among the recipients.

RPA remains a critical partner in the continued management of the program, including monitoring ongoing grantee activity, organizing teacher convenings, overseeing the LOI and grant application processes, and supporting related outreach and communications. RPA also provides thought partnership and recommendations to support the continued development of the program with each new grant cycle.

For more on the LIGHT Awards program, visit

Photo: LIGHT Awards 2015 Grantee Convening, Calistoga, CA

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