West Michigan Aviation Academy is a public charter school that was founded by billionaire Dick DeVos. DeVos was inspired and encouraged by his wife, Betsy DeVos, to start the tuition-free high school to support education in Michigan. The school, started in 2010, is located on land belonging to Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
In its first year, the school welcomed 80 freshmen. Its first classroom buildings were in a renovated 25,000 square foot office space located on airport grounds. Later in 2012, over 240 students comprising of juniors, sophomores and freshmen relocated to a new 42,500 square foot building. The school expanded its operations in terms of curriculum, aviation programs and student life. This new building allows West Michigan Aviation Academy to comfortably educate 500 students. In 2014, the school is expecting to enroll a freshman class of about 400 students and graduate its first class of 2014.
Mission of the School
The school aims to provide a thorough educational program with a special focus on aviation. It aims to prepare students for various opportunities including a chance at a descent college education, career success and engagement in local and national citizenship programs. The school does not charge any tuition fee and embraces diversity. It also has high academic expectations for all students and sets equivalently high behavioral standards. It has also set a no D-grade policy.
The school is headed by Patrick J. Cwayna as the Chief Executive Officer. Cwayna has an impressive 40 years of experience as a Michigan educator.
Dick DeVos was born Richard M. DeVos in 1955. Dick spearheaded the formation of the tuition-free West Michigan Aviation Academy. He also founded Windquest Group (that he heads as President) and co-chairs the Grand Action Committee. He has been a member of the Michigan Board of Education. In 2006, DeVos took part in the gubernatorial race of Michigan but came second to Jennifer Grandholm, the incumbent governor.
DeVos is keen on revitalizing the Grand Rapids area as reflected by all of his professional interests. His love for aviation, and the inspiration from his wife, led DeVos to start the aviation academy. The couple is an avid supporter of educational causes and has donated handsomely to the same.
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