Saturday, July 28, 2007

An entrepreneur does something to HELP public schools!

Entrepreneurs, if you really want to improve American education, and you're not just looking to privatize the system, here is an idea for you!

Bill Marvin cares about public schools, and so did his wife, Margaret, who passed away last December. Margaret was an English teacher and then a community activist and part-time columnist for our local newspaper. Bill took Marvin Windows and Doors, a small window company in Warroad, Minnesota, overcame a fire that seemingly wiped it out in the 1960s, and turned it into what might be the most successful business in northern Minnesota.

Bill and Margaret have also been incredibly generous to our community in Warroad, Minnesota. Among other things, they have donated our public library and our school's Olympic sized swimming pool, but this year they topped themselves. They set up a $50 million scholarship fund for kids who graduate from our high school.

We have about 100 kids per class in Warroad, and Marvin Family Scholarship fund will provide $10,000 per year to students who want to go to college for up to four years. This year 34 seniors got them. I should add that this is not based solely on GPA. The Marvins are very big on community service, and they look very closely at what kids have done in that area when awarding the scholarships.

Just think about what this means for families in our community. It basically means that if you are in the top third of your class, you have a very good chance of getting just about everything paid for if you decide to go to a state college or you'll have a lot of help if you want to go elsewhere. I mean, knowing the effort that is made by the typical high school student, how hard is it to be in the top third of your class? I believe that just about any student who really wants to accomplish that probably can. What an incentive to do well in school, and to be a good citizen while you're at it!

I've said in previous posts that high schools tend to go through cycles in which the student body gets better for awhile, gets worse for awhile, and then starts to get better again. I had also said that our student body in Warroad had slipped over the last couple of years, and it looked like that slippage was going to continue. I can't think of anything that could do more to reverse that trend than this gesture by the Marvin family.

There are a lot of entrepreneurs in America who say they care about education, so they fork out millions of dollars to encourage people take their kids out of public schools, and millions of dollars to set up things like merit pay schemes. If Bill Gates and company really want to improve public education in America, maybe they should take a look at what Bill and Margaret Marvin have done.

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