News and Events
The Chance to Excel
Italiano-Thomas Brings Education and Opportunity
to Young Children
Dr. Graciela Italiano-Thomas (EdD '97, GSEP), president and CEO of Thrive by Five Washington, is passionate about children. A staunch advocate for improving childcare, she works to raise the quality of preschools, increase opportunities for parent education, and highlight other early learning opportunities.
At Thrive by Five Washington, the latest chapter in Italiano-Thomas' distinguished career, she has adopted a clear and lofty goal: that every family and child in the state of Washington, beginning from birth, has access to high-quality early learning with the goal of school readiness and better outcomes for all kids. "This goal mirrors my own convictions," she says.
"The choices you make as a parent from the moment your child is born have a great impact on your child's future," explains Italiano-Thomas. "Parents are the first teachers and have a responsibility to be informed, to learn, and to seek support. And those of us who are professionals in the field have a responsibility to respond."
Throughout her career, she has responded through impressive work with nonprofit, educational organizations. Before being named to her position at Thrive by Five Washington by Bill Gates, Sr., and Chris Gregoire, the state's governor, Italiano-Thomas served as president of Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), where she directed efforts to ensure that all children of Los Angeles County would have access to high-quality preschools regardless of income level.
Under her leadership, LAUP dedicated more than $100 million to help create new preschools in Los Angeles County, where the need was greatest in predominantly low-income communities clustered largely in south and southeast Los Angeles County. Previously, she served as CEO of Centro de la Familia de Utah, a nonprofit organization whose goal was to strengthen the Hispanic family by promoting self-sufficiency.
Born and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay, Italiano-Thomas was awarded full teaching scholarships to attend college in the United States, where she earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees before returning to Uruguay. There she dedicated almost 20 years of her career to education.
She returned to the U.S., first to New York, where she served as a consultant helping school districts integrate immigrants into the education system, and then to Los Angeles to earn her doctorate in education and institutional management at the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology.
Italiano-Thomas has been honored several times for her service to the community, has been named to Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Council of Education Advisors, and sits on the Advisory Board of Pre-K Now, a national advocacy organization. She received a Distinguished Alumnus award from Pepperdine University in June 2007.
Italiano-Thomas currently lives in Seattle with her husband of 17 years. She has two grown stepchildren, and though she never had children herself, she considers her own all of the children she has been fortunate enough to care for over the years.
by Wileen Wong
Originally published in Pepperdine Voice