Dick DeVos has become nationally known as a Republican politician. This is partially due to his unsuccessful run in 2006 against governor Jennifer Granholm, in which he only narrowly lost to the widely popular incumbent while self-financing his entire campaign. His perception in the public mind as a politician is also due to the fact that his wife, Betsy DeVos, has been a leading figure in the Michigan Republican Party for more than 30 years. She currently serves as the U.S. Secretary of Education.
But the truth is that Dick DeVos has spent only an extremely small portion of his entire career on political matters. Around his home state of Michigan, he is known for his many other contributions throughout the worlds of business, philanthropy and education. It has been in this last sector where DeVos has received the least attention. It is also where he has, perhaps, made the largest contributions to the country as a whole.
DeVos first became interested in education while still in his 20s. He was working with a number of local charity groups in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This afforded him the opportunity to tour a number of inner-city schools. DeVos was shocked by the disparities that he saw between these public schools and the ones that he had attended. He saw classrooms that didn’t have heat in the middle of the harsh Michigan winters. He witnessed teachers who were unable to control unruly behavior in their classrooms, leading to an impossible learning environment.
DeVos knew that those disadvantaged kids who were forced to attend such dismal schools were being badly shortchanged. He set out to design a solution that would allow America’s inner-city youth, especially those who showed promise, to transcend the terrible limitations that were imposed upon them by the ravages of crime, poor schools and terrible role models.
One of his efforts to this end has been the West Michigan Aviation Academy. This aviation-themed high school recruits the majority of its students from severely deprived backgrounds. And even though these students come from some of the worst-performing schools in the state, when they get to the West Michigan Aviation Academy, they have proven that they are capable of scholastically performing on par with some of the most privileged districts in the country.
With this project, Dick DeVos has shown that the so-called achievement gap is not only able to be closed, but it is able to be slammed shut.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.