Ask those people who Dick DeVos is and they’ll probably reply that he’s a politician from Michigan. This is understandable. Most people free-associate the name Dick DeVos with his 2006 gubernatorial run in the state of Michigan. After losing by just a couple percentage points, DeVos quickly returned to his normal activities, business and philanthropy.
In fact, DeVos has never been anything even remotely close to a professional politician. His entire life has been spent in the business world, running his family’s businesses as well as his own many successful companies. He has also been one of the most notable philanthropists in the West Michigan area.
But to some people, DeVos’ name is associated with a different realm, charter schools and vouchers. These concepts are not popular with everyone, especially those who currently make their living in the old system of education. However, the results seen from charter schools, particularly in urban environments, are simply beyond arguing with. DeVos has long been aware of these realities and has put his money where his mouth is. Unlike his critics, DeVos is a man of action. He has long donated money, totaling into the tens of millions of dollars, to strategic initiatives that he believes, through closely reviewing evidence, are the most effective means of teaching inner-city youth. Many of the schools that he has directly and personally underwritten, have achieved phenomenal results, stupefying education experts and making believers out of even the staunchest opponents of charter schools.
One of these brilliant successes has been the West Michigan Aviation Academy, an aviation-themed high school that specializes in science, technology, engineering and math, with a particular emphasis on aviation applications in those subjects. The miracle of West Michigan Aviation Academy is that 40 percent of its student body is what educators referred to as highly economically disadvantaged minorities. This is a cohort that typically scores dismally on standardized tests. However, in the case of West Michigan Aviation Academy, they are beating all but the top 5 percent of all high school students in the nation. This is a phenomenal achievement, one that cannot be ignored by anyone with an interest in actually improving the educational outcomes of America’s inner-city youth.
This is just a small sampling of the many philanthropic activities that DeVos has undertaken over the last 20 years.