Dick DeVos is a man with a long history of fighting for what he considers to be the best interest of his beloved Grand Rapids, Michigan. This resolve was tested in 1991 when a group of real estate developers announced their plans to build a multi-purpose grand arena a few miles north of downtown Grand Rapids.
In response to the news, Mr. DeVos joined efforts with a group of local businessman who shared his belief that the arena would prove to be detrimental to Grand Rapids. The group identified themselves as the Grand Action group and were not only successful at thwarting the plans to build the downtown sports arena but also would go on to be responsible for a number of significant real estate developments in the area themselves.
Dick, and wife Betsy DeVos, who is the current United States Secretary of Education, share a sentiment that with the vast fortunes that were inherited from both of their family comes a responsibility to champion the causes of the less fortunate.
The couple founded the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation together and from a period that began in 1989 and extended to 2015 the Foundation gave away $138.7 million. Among the initiatives supported by the DeVos Family Foundation were programs supporting the arts, leadership training programs, and the center of many efforts on the part of the couple: reform in education.
The DeVos’ are firm believers in the rights of parents to have a say in where and how education is distributed to their children and have fought long and hard to make this dream a reality for all. And while their efforts to sway public opinion regarding the matter has not always been successful, the setbacks experienced by them has never instigated thoughts of dropping out of the fight.
One particular defeat for the school choice movement took place in 2000 when an amendment to the Michigan state constitution that was sponsored by the DeVos and would have provided tax-funded vouchers to lower-income students in the state to attend charter schools was voted against by voters.
The DeVos emerged undaunted, however, and soon refocused their advocacy for school choice programs and targeted areas throughout the country. Largely due to the efforts of Dick and Betsy DeVos, 24 states in American, as well as Washington D.C. can now boast of some sort of voucher program allowing students to attend private schools who otherwise would not have been able.
In a more personal contribution to the movement, Dick DeVos founded a charter school of his own. The West Michigan Aviation Academy opened its doors to its initial 80 students in 2010 and used abandoned office space at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids as makeshift classrooms. The school grew quickly and just a few years later is the owner of its own building and provides quality educational services for 600 students that reside in seven counties throughout the state of Michigan. The popularity of the school is such that annual spring lotteries have been needed to be used when applications have exceeded openings.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.