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Is Funding Scholarships "On Mission"?

"There are no elements so diverse that cannot be joined in the heart of a man."
–Jean Giraudoux

The purpose of The Grauer School is to teach and encourage students to be resourceful, persevering, accountable, and intrinsically motivated in a compassionate, college preparatory environment. Every significant action we take needs to clearly support that purpose.

Dr. Stuart Grauer presents a toast at The Grauer School's Spring Gala - May 5, 2018

Last weekend at our annual gala, in a tour de force of beauty and congenial spirits, with a toast and a paddle raise, we launched our school's first financial aid endowment: "The Access to Grauer Financial Aid-Scholarship Endowment Fund." Was this on mission? Is such a fund, requiring so much effort, a clear part of our purpose? Let's examine this:

Teach: In collaboration with our amazing staff, parent gala organizers Erin Hawk and Tricia Ochoa gave us all a master class in creating a connected community. Providing for others, sweating the details, and creating a caring community is the ultimate way of leading by example, one of humankind's most time-tested teaching methods. Additionally, at our gala, we heard and saw testimonials from Jada Henry, a scholarship student (class of 2014) now just days away from her college graduation. This esteemed Grauer graduate stood and delivered a beautiful lesson about the larger purposes for our work.

Dr. Stuart Grauer with Jada Henry, Class of 2014, and her family at the Spring Gala - May 5, 2018

Encourage: Endowment giving is entirely voluntary, drawing upon our altruism. We now have around $150,000 in our endowment fund. What's more, we are already awarding somewhere in the area of $350,000 a year in financial aid to qualifying scholars. What could be more encouraging for our community and our student body! Board member and school alum Alex Levine actually calculated that if we had $80 million in our financial aid fund, The Grauer School would be free. How would that be for encouragement! $150K is a beautiful start.

Resourceful: By pooling our money, we can make changes. What's more, we can select from among the top community foundations in our area to hold and invest this money well for us. Board finance chair David Cumming has held multiple meetings with foundations all over San Diego and learned about their investment and giving programs. As this endowment grows, it will vastly expand: (1) the pool of applicants we can expect, (2) the talent of our student body over the long run, and (3) the amazing work and projects our students and teachers can take on together.

Perseverance: Can we weather the storms? Having a solid endowment gives our school strength through all times and economic cycles. With changing demographics or changing financial times, our endowment ensures we have financial depth. The average American household carries $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve's recent numbers. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income was just $59,039 last year, suggesting that many Americans are living beyond their means. Our school has never done this. We are a $15 million organization with not much more than $1 million in debt (far smaller than the norms) from building Meyer Hall, but it's in a bond note where the interest is tiny—our dept to equity ratio would be the envy of practically any independent school we've ever seen. The Grauer School believes that to sustain our school through the generations we must pay our own way. We are happy to sacrifice for the future. Better yet, endowing our school "Pays it forward," the ideal conditions for perseverance and sustainability.

Grauer students and teachers performing at the Spring Gala - May 5, 2018
Accountability: Because of our optimal school size—200 students and teachers together on a campus—each student and teacher at Grauer is clearly connected to one another—that's the real accountability. Next, we hold our school in trust for the generations to come. Our school does not and cannot be sustained in isolation—we cannot function or be understood apart from the surrounding community to which we are accountable. Our wellbeing as a school is entirely dependent upon the vast web of reciprocal relations we have with our surrounding communities. Actions like galas, coming together in generosity so that we may endow broader access to our school, have permanent repercussions throughout our region: to our ecosystems and politicians and neighbors and friends—Our generosity strengthens our community, which strengthens us. We are neither above nor below them, we are among them: we are accountable.
We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. (possibly Chief Seattle)
Intrinsic Motivation: Year after year, starting now, parents will be given the option to contribute to this fund, completely of their own volition. Financial aid funds do not inure to the personal benefit of the giver: they go to the coming generations, to posterity, to future scholars: what an act of selfless giving! Of course, in a self-serving way, they ensure the stature and reputation of our school for the future, increasing motivation and morale. Our diploma gains in "value." The high school years are among our deepest, most formative memories: having a school we can all be proud of is a lifelong gift.

Compassion: Research at New York University [1] and a great many other sources [2] keeps showing that diversity impacts compassion. As Jada expressed in her heartfelt speech on gala night, the gift of a great education is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow. Providing for the education of future generations is pure kindness. It's not always easy to be compassionate like this. The very thought of diversity makes some people anxious or uncomfortable. In this beautiful book, The Children are Watching, the legendary educator Ted Sizer reminds us (as we often do in this column) that the classroom curriculum constitutes only a small part of what a youth actually learns in school, while lamenting that most American high schools are clique-driven and exclusionary, riddled with social pyramids. As three years of surveying keep showing, these large school pathologies are rare at Grauer—we are a place of inclusion [3]. And yet, if we want to build teams or organizations capable of innovation and creativity, we need diversity. Moreover, when we provide adequate opportunities for everyone in the learning community, we build a culture that breeds empathy, care, and consideration.

Grauer Student Ambassadors at the Spring Gala - May 5, 2018

College Preparation: We do not hold college preparation as a fundamental purpose, but we do promise to provide a college preparatory environment for those who choose it. Though college entry is only one possible outcome, in today's world, preparation for college is an obvious, huge benefit which pays off for a lifetime. Furthermore, Grauer's environment of scholarship, natural surroundings, loving and brilliant teachers, and challenging curriculum affords our students with an incredibly enriched and challenging environment in which to come of age. Providing access to our environment to the most qualified students in our region through financial assistance helps our students have a well-qualified, motivated peer group as they prepare.

Conclusion: The benefits of having a diverse peer group are well and deeply documented. Grauer's environment of inclusivity, age-mixing, and connection ensures that all our students really engage with peers from different backgrounds, and with unique learning and personality styles. Diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious—you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers and quality-control experts. According to Scientific American, "Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working."

More important than any one of our core values or features is our worldview, the way of seeing that holds us all together. Humans share the same DNA. As my old friend, the anthropologist Dr. Jeff Salz notes, "There are ninety-nine times more traits that join us as humans than separate us. That tiny one percent is what we call culture" (personal communication). Our diverse talents and backgrounds are only valuable because of the extraordinary culture of connectedness in our school.

The loving launch of our new "Access to Grauer Financial Aid-Scholarship Endowment Fund," at our recent gala was as "on mission" as anything we have ever done. Or more.

If you have not given to this new endowment fund, please consider clicking on the button below:

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[1] Why Compassion in Business Makes Sense, Emma Seppala, Greater Good Magazine, April 15, 2013.

[2] Teaching Kindness and Compassion in a Diverse World, Lynn T. Hill, Ph.D., Andrew Stremmel, Ph.D., and Victoria Fu, Ph.D., Scholastic.

[3] Evidence-Based Joy: Is Your School or College "On Mission?", Dr. Stuart Grauer, The Grauer School, February 14, 2018.

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