Born to a public school teacher in 1958, Betsy DeVos was inspired at an early age to devote her life to advancing educational opportunities for children. While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mrs. DeVos became active in campus politics. I believe she merged these two strengths quite successfully to become the leader and philanthropist she is today.
One of Betsy DeVos’s earliest endeavors proved to be one of her most important. In 1994, she and her husband began to visit the Potter’s House Christian School and were impressed to see the families and staff striving to ensure the children had a safe, stimulating and loving environment in which to learn. The DeVoses began to offer significant financial and interactive support, which they continue currently. Mrs. DeVos mentors individual students attending Potter’s House and has served on the Advisory Board since 1994. According to her biography on the U. S. Department of Education’s website, Betsy DeVos was compelled to expand her reach and for 15 years served as an in-school mentor for at-risk students in the Michigan public school system. She states that working with those teachers, students and parents, “changed my life and my perspective about education forever.” I trust she is sincere in her efforts to bring reform to the way school systems allocate education opportunities to children, especially the low-income and residents of poor neighborhoods. Her quest to advocate for the educational-choice movement began in the 1990s when she served on the boards of two national non-profits, the Children First America and the American Education Reform Council. Both agencies worked to expand educational choice through vouchers and tax credits, making private and charter schools more financially accessible to deserving children’s families.
Additionally, Betsy DeVos is encouraging the education system to end the policy of forcing students to attend a school based on geographic guidelines, a practice that removes the families’ rights to choose what is best for their children. In the years 2001 and 2002, Mrs. DeVos made such tremendous strides in opening opportunities for Michigan families to choose high-quality options for their children’s education that proponents of the movement took notice. These people began to encourage Betsy DeVos to broaden her influence nationally and she agreed, according to her 2013 interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable organization. She currently serves as chairwoman of the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, both of which are agencies leading the national educational-choice movement. I am confident Betsy DeVos will continue to use her time and money to build on her successful efforts in educational-choice reform already improving the learning atmosphere in Florida, Michigan, Louisiana and Indiana. Read her interview with Philanthropy Table