Higher Achievement Supporter
“Every time a foundation takes a risk and supports something new, there’s an idea that this might turn into something really great,” explains Rick Moyers, Vice President for Programs at the Meyer Foundation. “That this is a small program now, and we’re going to take a chance, make a small grant, but maybe it’ll turn into something really powerful. The reality is that sometimes this happens, but it often doesn’t,” he says.
The Meyer Foundation began supporting Higher Achievement in 1968, before Higher Achievement was even an independent nonprofit. Their support made it possible for Higher Achievement to begin operating programs in those early years. In 2003, Rick arrived at the Meyer Foundation as the Program Officer for Capacity Building. He was introduced to Higher Achievement during a particularly challenging financial time, when the organization was redeveloping the board and analyzing financial models. As Program Officer, he provided support and guidance during this process.
Though Rick’s relationship with Higher Achievement began as part of his role at the Meyer Foundation, the program truly resonates with him on a personal level. He says, “I didn’t come from a background where it was a given that I was going to go to college. My parents weren’t sure about whether I would need to go to college. As I lived my life and had a career, I realized that much of what I’ve accomplished and the best aspects of my life happened because I had the opportunity to get an education. I think everyone should have that same opportunity.”
Rick continues, “For those who grow up in middle-class homes, attend private schools, or have a lot of opportunities when growing up–I think we tend to take it for granted that all young people have positive adult influences in their life or young people will have people in their life who are motivating them to think about academics, to think about their future. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.”
Over the past 13 years, Rick and his colleagues at Meyer have visited Achievement Centers all over DC, witnessing Higher Achievement’s community of motivated learners firsthand. He sees that Higher Achievement provides critical academic opportunities in a rigorous learning environment with the support of caring adults. As he describes, “Higher Achievement plays an important role in balancing out the types of opportunities that are available to young people so that no matter what the income level of your family, or what your family circumstances are, you still have these positive forces in your life, and you’re still, motivated, and thinking about your future.” Rick elaborates, “The idea that there are thousands of young people in this community who did well in high school, who went on to college, who are now here, or all over the country, being successful in their careers –that has a huge impact on the region. It has a huge economic impact.Higher Achievement has a huge impact on the social fabric of the region.”
The support of the Meyer Foundation over 40 years ago, and their continued support today, has had a deep and long-lasting impact on Higher Achievement. Their grants have directly funded several key initiatives, such as Higher Achievement’s first national growth strategic planning process, leadership trainings for Executive Directors, and the development of an individual giving fundraising plan. As Rick describes, “For the Meyer Foundation, Higher Achievement represents a huge payoff from a very early, very small leap of faith. We made a small grant to a program that existed at one high school that didn’t have a track record. Over decades, that has turned into this great organization that is serving hundreds and hundreds of young people in our region, one that has expanded to other cities, and that is a very well-managed organization that actually has evidence of its effectiveness. For philanthropy, that’s the Triple Crown.”
FUTURE OF HIGHER ACHIEVEMENT
In another 40 years, I see Higher Achievement still here. I see Higher Achievement having a huge impact on the lives of thousands of young people in our region.
If Higher Achievement was a person celebrating their 40th birthday, what kind of party would they throw? A randomized control trial party.
Imagine a world where every child has a chance to be in a program like Higher Achievement: If every young person had the opportunity to be in a program like Higher Achievement, you would see higher graduation rates, larger numbers of young people going on to college, and being prepared for careers. I can’t think of anything that’s more important for the future of our region.