SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Stephanie Bray, CEO of United Way California Capital Region, couldn’t contain her excitement after a phone call with philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, turned into a $10 million gift.

“It’s extraordinary. absolutely extraordinary,” Bray said. “We had no idea that a conversation I had the week of Thanksgiving would turn into this.”

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Bray said the donation will be used to expand United Way’s Square One Project.

“Square One is really a philosophy, an approach that says when you bring together the community with non-profits, government – the for-profit sector and school districts are included – you can really make amazing things happen,” she said.

The program brings together resources and identifies solutions to help families reduce poverty and increase the number of kids who graduate from high school..

“It will mean children will have access to the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. We are going to remove barriers for parents who are trying to support their students’ education,” Bray said.

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Reyes is the superintendent of Robla School district in Sacramento where Square One receives high marks.

“There is a strong connection between community members and schools. So here in Roble, for example, schools feel like safe places when issues come up in their lives,” said Ruben Reyes.

The program has allowed schools to provide a third meal daily to students, among other things.

“We’ve been able to rally volunteers to do reading tutoring as a part of united way. It is now the custom in Robla School District to provide a college savings account for kindergarteners when they enroll here,” Reyes said. “We have water bottles for students to make sure they’re hydrated, which is proven to help them academically.”

Reyes said the money will go a long way toward serving students’ ever-evolving needs amid a pandemic that is also ever-evolving.

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