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DeVos set to meet students from Grand Rapids school

Melissa Nann Burke

Washington — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will meet Thursday with eighth-graders from a private Christian school in Grand Rapids, where she and her husband supported low-income students with scholarships for about 30 years.

The class of 36 eighth-graders will visit the U.S. Department of Education as part of the school’s annual week-long trip to Washington that includes stops at national museums and other cultural and educational activities, said John Booy, superintendent of the Potter’s House school.

“It’s the first time they’ve been able to do something like that,” said Booy, who was en route to Washington with the students and their chaperones on Monday morning.

“We hope to have a great week. We plan to end it — the last thing we’re going to do there is our time with Mrs. DeVos. We will have dinner together, and she’ll be able to address us. We’ll ask her questions, and we’ll probably pray over her for her job, and then we’ll be on our way back to Grand Rapids. The kids are pretty excited about it.”

The Potter’s House began in 1981 with about a dozen students in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Today, the school enrolls more than 540 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 on two campuses, according to its website.

DeVos and her husband, Dick, visited the Potter’s House in the late 1980s and began regularly donating money to the school to provide scholarships for children whose parents couldn’t otherwise afford the tuition.

DeVos, who is from the Grand Rapids area, has said her involvement with the school spurred her decision to get involved in education and the school choice movement.

“I saw the struggle of so many families who were just trying to access the same opportunities and choices for their children that my husband and I had for ours,” DeVos said in a March speech to the Council of the Great City Schools.

“Schools like The Potter’s House gave kids the chance to succeed and thrive, but for every student who got the chance to attend The Potter’s House, I knew there were others stuck in schools not meeting their needs. The realization of this injustice moved me to get involved. I decided then to help as many of these families as I possibly could.”

Before her confirmation as education secretary this year, DeVos chaired a national nonprofit group, the American Federation for Children, with affiliated political action committees and lobbying arms that advocate for expanding school of choice options across the country.

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