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Educator Wins $250,000 Kravis Prize for Bogota Program

The $250,000 Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership for 2011 has been awarded to Vicky Colbert, founder of the Bogota, Colombia-based Escuela Nueva Foundation.

Colbert was chosen because her programs let children learn at their own pace instead of using teacher-driven memorization techniques, said Kim Jonker, the prize director. The program also instills leadership skills and entrepreneurial values in young people, she said.

“To me, it is important that the recipient of the Kravis Prize have a real and measurable impact in the community,” Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-chairman of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP, said in an e-mail statement to Bloomberg News. “Vicky Colbert’s Escuela Nueva model has seen tangible results in more than 16 countries around the world and is poised to expand upon that success.”

Her methods “influenced so many others in the nonprofit sector,” said Jonker in a phone interview. And she has let other schools copy the program in an industry where “there is far too little collaboration and replication.”

“The prize was the best Christmas gift I had received in a long time,” said Colbert by phone, who learned that she was chosen on Dec. 24. “It gives us the feeling of assurance that we’re moving in the right way.” She will receive the prize at a ceremony in New York in March.

Founded in 1987, the Escuela Nueva Foundation is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that has served five million children in more than 20,000 schools in Latin America and has been used as an education model for other countries. Colbert said she will use the prize money to expand the foundation’s work to countries in Asia.

Born in Corvallis, Oregon, and raised in Colombia, the Stanford University-educated Colbert received the Global Citizen Award in 2007. The award is given by former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative. She once served as Colombia’s vice minister of education.

‘Bold Leadership’

The Kravis Prize was started in 2006 by the leveraged- buyout specialist to honor those who have demonstrated “bold leadership” in the nonprofit sector and have shared their best practices with others. The prize is administered by Claremont McKenna College in California, where Kravis is a trustee and earned an undergraduate degree. Marie-Josee Kravis, an economist and his wife, also administers the award.

Nominations come from a panel of experts, and the public can submit candidates at the prize’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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