Using Retirement Years to Educate Kids

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The Pope Foundation’s new Liberty Leader focuses on Baker Mitchell, a retired businessman who now devotes his life to helping kids in coastal North Carolina get an excellent education:

A tale of two schools.

That’s what prompted Baker Mitchell to embark on a journey to bring more education options to families in coastal North Carolina.

The story began in the early 1990s, when Baker lived in Houston, Texas, with his family. He had recently sold his computer company and was looking for a new pursuit to spice up retirement. Baker decided to use his affinity for science to volunteer as a teacher in elementary schools.

“At the time, Barbara Bush Elementary School in the suburbs of Houston was the big deal,” Baker said. “It was a brand new school with all the gadgets, using all the new education fads, with all the wealthy students. But their scores were terrible. I began to ask why.”

Soon, Baker got an answer. A friend suggested that he volunteer at Wesley Elementary in north Houston. In contrast to Barbara Bush Elementary, Wesley’s roll comprised almost entirely African-American students enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program.

“I pulled into the school’s parking lot and immediately noticed a 6-foot barbed wire fence around the school,” Baker recalls. “It was in a rough area of town.”

“Yet each student was well behaved and advanced educationally,” he added. “In the 4th grade, they were reading and studying Shakespeare. Kids weren’t allowed to use calculators. They had to learn phonics and memorize their multiplication and division tables.”

Read more Liberty Leaders here.