Why I stand with Betsy DeVos: Education serves as chief means to realize American Dream
© Getty Images

I have lived the American Dream.  My family fled war-torn Afghanistan in the late 1980s to seek refuge in the United States.  When we settled in California, we didn’t have a lot of money, but our family had love and each other. While I attended an underprivileged school district where seeing friends drop out of high school was too often the norm, I was able to go onto college and become the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

Over the course of my educational journey, I developed a deep love for math and science, and became the first certified fixed wing female pilot from Afghanistan. Having broken through the glass ceiling myself, I have dedicated my life to encouraging girls to pursue careers in aviation and excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. I founded Dreams Soar, Inc, a United States based nonprofit, to promote STEM education globally. To fulfill our mission, mentors are recruited to help young girls and women develop the proficiencies in these fields, preparing them to compete for the jobs of the future.

ADVERTISEMENT

I am thrilled by President-elect Trump’s decision to appoint Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department in his administration. Mrs. DeVos is most known for her advocacy for expanding school choice to provide low-income children with access to better performing schools, and she is also a national leader in the movement to recruit mentors for at-risk children. In fact, she has mentored children herself for many years.

Mrs. DeVos has a big heart and a generous soul. She and her husband have donated millions of dollars to help create better educational opportunities for low-income school children.  In the process, she has endured vicious attacks from the education establishment and politicians who make excuses for the indefensible failures in our K-12 education system. 

In a cause near and dear to my heart, the DeVos family founded a charter school, West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA), in Grand Rapids, Mich. This school, which is focused on aviation, is now one of the highest performing charter schools in their home state. I’ve had the pleasure to connect with the students from WMAA on several occasions during my travels to Grand Rapids. During my visits, I witnessed the positive impact, sense of community and a place to nuture and foster their educational dreams WMAA offers to their students.

I believe that Betsy DeVos will be a strong and effective leader for all children in America, and I also believe she will be a true inspiration and role model for young girls in America. While women have made incredible progress in recent decades, we are still underrepresented in the upper echelons of business and government. As a Cabinet secretary, Mrs. DeVos can help young women understand that they can achieve great things if they dream big and work hard. I am certain of this because of how much she has personally inspired me.

I am also aware Mrs. DeVos will focus her considerable intelligence and leadership experience on closing the skills gap in the American economy. Today, only 40 percent of high school graduates, according to the Nation’s Report Card, are college or workforce ready.  To grow the American economy, increase wages and protect America’s status as an economic power, our nation must raise the bar on STEM education. Betsy DeVos fully understands this challenge and will demand that the education establishment do a better job of ensuring that our children are proficient in STEM.

The rapid acceleration of technology is transforming the global economy and the way we live. While there are tremendous benefits associated with the work coming out of Silicon Valley, there are also disruptive effects which are causing great economic dislocation in the United States and fueling the discontent in the population resulting from stagnant wages. To effectively manage the forces of globalization and to protect the American Dream for the next generation, the United States must once again establish its leadership in K-12 education. I believe President-elect Trump picked the right woman for the job.

Shaesta Waiz founded Dreams Soar.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.