When some people hear the name Devos, they think about Donald Trump and the new administration. While that might be what Betsy Devos is known for today, it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, the Devos name was originally associated with the charitable works of Betsy and her husband Dick. It was also associated with Dick’s work history and his efforts to rebuild his native Grand Rapids. While the political notoriety is new, the Devos crew has long been fighting for education, urban revitalization and other quality ventures in the community.
Dick Devos made his money with Amway, the sales giant. With the ability to do something good with his money, he decided to invest it where he could see it. Grand Rapids needed an influx of cash. The downtown area was falling apart, and jobs were leaving the community. What he saw there was something that his wife saw also. They saw that the lack of hope and opportunity in Grand Rapids and elsewhere had to be fought on multiple fronts. This is why he invested in a new arena, several new buildings and a new arts center. At the end of the day, Grand Rapids was re-born into something bigger, better and much more impressive. It’s now known for the Devoses and their efforts, but the two of them just believed they were allowing the natural potential of the place to come alive.
That is what Betsy Devos has seen in the education world, too. Those big, new downtown buildings are useless if there isn’t a good education system to fill them with people who have skills and knowledge. When Betsy and Dick were looking to send their own kids to school, they noticed that parents just have a lack of quality choices. Parents have to choose from the best of the worst, being stuck with failing public schools. Many people cannot afford to do what the Devoses did, which was send their kids to private schools. With this in mind, the Devos crew began working for school choice and vouchers. They wanted parents to have the options they had in choosing the right school.
Whether it’s been in business, in rebuilding a community or in working for educational reform, Betsy and Dick Devos have made an impact both locally and abroad. What started with efforts to educate their own kids and rebuild their own city have spread nationally. Their efforts have led to reform movements all over the country. Dozens of states have adopted some kind of school voucher system, largely because of the work of the Devos family. Now, people have more opportunity to do the things they were meant to do, just as Betsy and Dick envisioned in the beginning.
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