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Pivotal CEO Elise Cutini is on the left.
Pivotal CEO Elise Cutini is on the left.

Our rich history in Santa Clara County.

Pivotal’s roots date all the way back to 1987, when a group of community members formed Silicon Valley Children’s Fund and teamed up with the County of Santa Clara to build a children’s shelter. The facility, on Union Avenue in San Jose, ran for 13 years until it was sold in 2012.  Silicon Valley Children’s Fund reinvested the proceeds from the sale and continued to work with public and private organizations to address the unfulfilled educational needs of foster youth.


It’s hard to boil down our 20-year history, especially when we’re proud of every minute. But if you’re curious, here’s how we evolved to become Pivotal.


We started a college scholarship program and were known as Silicon Valley Children’s Fund. Trouble was, we had more money than scholarship applicants. 50% of foster youth were dropping out of high school and few were headed to college. Obviously, a scholarship program wasn’t enough.



To increase the high school graduation rate, we partnered with the Department of Family and Children’s Services and County Office of Education and created a highly effective educational support program for 9th-12th graders. Using MSW graduate student interns as coaches, the program achieved staggering rates of success: foster youth in our program graduated high school at a rate 25 percentage points higher than their peers in the foster care system.  Now more young people were eligible for our scholarships!



Our scholarship recipients – known as YES Scholars – made clear that they loved our financial support, but they missed having a coach by their side to navigate the challenges of school and life. They asked us for the same consistent mentorship and guidance they got from us in high school. How could we say no to that? We partnered with local community colleges to offer our academic coaching program on their campuses. We increased our students’ first year retention rates from 61% to 89%. And, with this new college program, we could now offer foster youth 10 years of continuous academic support!



We learned that education alone wasn’t enough. Time and time again, our scholars came to us with questions about job search and career options, or concerns about how to earn money to make ends meet while carrying a full-time course load in school. They asked us to offer employment and career support services in addition to academic support.



The idea of a merger with our long-time partner, TeenForce, was born. TeenForce had already built a solid reputation for finding foster youth jobs, and was working with more than 100 local employers to provide summer internships for foster youth. We knew we could create a one-of-a-kind game-changing approach. We closed the merger and joined forces in July 2017, and got to work!



Meet Pivotal. Our new name for the next pivotal phase of our organization’s fantastic history.


Read more about our partnerships.