I recently had the chance to interview Betsy DeVos and had a long talk about the philanthropic initiatives she and her family have been involved with through the years, and it certainly provided a rare glimpse to all the hard work the family has put through for the community. The DeVos family was instrumental in building the nation’s first private school program in Milwaukee which has gone on to grow all around the country in tremendous numbers. The idea to help low-income parents in supporting education for their children came when Richard (Dick) and Betsy saw their own children go to school and met parents who were doing their best to provide quality education to their children but could not do so properly. I was curious to know as to how her simple initiative turned into a nationwide movement. Betsy was more than willing to share the story. Dick and Betsy got involved with growing the initiative in a better manner. Dick ran for the State Election Board and got selected in 1990 while Betsy started a foundation that helped children from lower income groups choose a school of their liking. Her hard work in this field has led to further evolution and development of the American Federation for Children (AFC) which Betsy now chairs and operates. The AFC is involved in promoting education reforms through the expansion of charter schools in the state of Michigan with the program expanding to other states like Louisiana, Indiana, and Florida. The tax-credit scholarship program was very successful in Florida with more than 50,000 students attending a school of their choice thanks to the initiative of AFC. Betsy’s organization also faced some opposition in states like Louisiana which was against the AFC’s initiative but Betsy’s tenacity and hard work paid off to reform the state’s educational mandate. On being asked about the effect of technology and how it’s creating new avenues for school going students, Betsy is of an opinion that digital learning is still in its infancy and has a long way to go but it can certainly be used to boost learning and education.
Dick DeVos is a second-generation entrepreneur. He is the son of the late Richard DeVos who was the co-founder of Amway. He began work in the Amway Corporation in 1974 and has been instrumental in taking the network sales company to great heights. Dick and his Betsy are also involved in the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation which started in the year 1989. The foundation is involved in giving back to the community with various initiatives like education, community outreach programs and leadership programs.