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Self-reliance is a big theme for her, given how she grew up, in rural New Jersey; given how far she’s come.

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We park in downtown Oakland, a city known for its radical politics (the Black Panthers were founded here), its tremendous ethnic diversity, and its educational dysfunction.

Almost half of the graduates from Oakland Unified School District are not eligible for state college upon graduation; proficiency in reading and writing among Oakland’s Latino and African-American high school students is only 17 and 14 percent, respectively.

When Jobs died, her brother Brad Powell moved with his family to Palo Alto.

(He now manages investments at Emerson.) “With Steve being gone,” Powell Jobs says, “it was just me and my kids, and they came out to be with me.” To say they helped seems to be an understatement. As time passed, a question arose: How would the Silicon Valley power woman use her reported $17 billion fortune?

And finally, starting last fall, she assembled a group of people to launch a national competition calling on teachers, students, communities, groups of any kind to re­imagine the American high school.

At least five ideas will be chosen by Powell Jobs’s team and million divided among them.“Laurene was an older sister,” says Marlene Castro, a College Track alum and U. Throughout the afternoon, I watch her focus intently on each young person she’s talking to, both serious and naturally at ease—even kind of silly and fun.She needs to get home but encourages me to stay and suggests we meet again the next day.It’s a short drive from the well-known Palo Alto to the less well-known one—a trip Laurene Powell Jobs has been making for more than 20 years.“It won’t take long,” she tells me as she pulls her Tesla away from her education-reform organization, Emerson Collective.It was on that site that she and a team of tutors and counselors helped about two dozen local teenagers not just get into college but find a way to pay for it, and work their way to a degree.

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