Few questions are so universally recognized ̶ thanks to Shakespeare's Juliet ̶ and few so frequently fielded by the team at Arete Scholars. It's a fair question.
For us, Arete is more than a tag on logos and letterhead. It's an invariable reminder of our mission: to help underprivileged children, those who often face the greatest obstacles to academic and personal achievement, find hope and reach their highest potential through educational opportunity.
Pronounced ah-reh-tay, the word is an ancient Greek concept that most simply means excellence in action. Arete is a life well lived, virtuous and courageous. It signifies potential realized and function fulfilled. To achieve arete is to become the person you were intended to be, to walk purposefully in the path prepared before you. It's a name that best captures our vision for all our nation's students, but sadly it's a goal seldom grasped by those families we strive to serve.
In his book On Leadership, sociologist and statesman John Gardner wrote, “Great gifts unused, even unsuspected, are hardly a rarity. No doubt there have always been a great many men and women of extraordinary talent who have died with all their music in them.” That's the tragedy we fight against.
Far too many children from lower income families lack the opportunity to exercise their gifts, or even identify them. The talents are unused and unsuspected. But they need not remain so.
Arete Scholars exists to aid undersupported children in the discovery, development, and use of their unique gifts and talents. Founded in 2010, our corporate and foundation partners have helped us grant more than 5,500 K-12 scholarships worth nearly $25 million to children in need. The scores of success stories are our reward, as we watch our kids discover opportunity ̶ many for the first time ̶ and thrive in challenging, new learning environments.
Some Arete scholars have escaped unsafe school settings, while others are now flourishing in smaller classes. Many are encountering and conquering demanding new academic curricula, while many more are thriving in extracurricular arts and athletic programs. In urban, rural, and suburban settings alike, hundreds of students are learning what it means to dream, to excel, and to strive toward a goal.
Upon hearing her 10-year-old Arete scholar confidently declare his desire to be a paleontologist, one Augusta, Georgia mom, a single parent trying to make a better life for her children, said emotionally, "It's amazing to hear my children talk like that and have hope that they can actually reach those goals."
Arete students and their families have little use for political wrangling and unhelpful distinctions of private and public education. What matters most are the gifts discovered and the hope rekindled. Some may still struggle to pronounce the word ̶ many of us do, too ̶ but thanks to the selfless efforts of teachers, parents, and financial partners, these young scholars now know a little something about arete.
We are grateful to be a part of their discovery.