The $300 Investment

Once in a while I run smack dab into a story that I just can’t seem to shake from my mind.  At Winona State University we finished our fall 2009 classes last Friday.  In our last labor economics class of the semester we were briefly discussing the effect that a solid role model can have on young people who come from a tough background.  After class one of my students, now in her mid-thirties, shared her experience with me.

Seventeen years ago she was a high school senior in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  Pagosa Springs was the fourth high-school she had attended.  She was living on her own, working part time in a Laundromat and sleeping on couches in the homes of friends.  She finally found a small place to rent for a few months, but her part-time job left her continually short of cash.  Unable to come up with the $300 rent she needed, she finally decided to drop out of high school and take a dead end job.

Within a week after she dropped out, she got a knock at her door.  It was one of her teachers at the high school.  He asked her why she hadn’t been to school.  She told him of her financial difficulties.  He gave her $300 to make the rent.  She came back to school.  Today she remembers how he kept an eye on her, tutoring her and making sure that she kept on task to graduate from high school.

My student, who will realize her dream and receive her college degree next week, remembered the “crappy old rusty car” that her teacher drove.  “They weren’t paying him anything” she said.  “That $300 must have been a huge sacrifice for him.”  Then she said, “I never really understood why he helped me.”  I told her that there could be only one reason.  He cared for her.  He didn’t want to see her fall between the cracks.  He was a man who sacrificed for his students simply because it was the right thing to do; he needed no other reason.

I just received an email from my student.  She got on the internet and tracked down that high school business teacher who knocked on her door 17 years ago.  His name is Doug Bowen.  He still lives and works in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  He is the Director of the Archuleta County Alternative High School.  Doug’s still there, still at it, still helping the kids who most need a leg up.

I hope you read this blog, Doug.  When the students graduate from Winona State University next week, I’ll have the pleasure of witnessing the final lap of a journey that wouldn’t have taken place if you hadn’t been there for her.  Know that you really made a difference.  Know that she is enthusiastic, caring, and a good mother to her daughter.  Know that the return on investment from your $300 has never been equaled in the world of finance or economics.  Thanks, Doug.

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93 Responses to The $300 Investment

  1. Danielle Milby says:

    Dear Don,
    How thoughtful you are to recognize an outstanding individual such as Jessica. I, Danielle Velarde Milby, attended high school with Jessica and know the history of her hardships. She is a survivor and I am extremely proud of her and all of her triumphs. I know she will someday pass the buck and make a difference in someone’s life as Doug Bowen made in hers.

    God Bless,
    Danielle Milby

  2. Jessica Curry says:

    There are no words…I can only say “Thank you.”

  3. Heather Grimes (Tautges) says:

    Dear Don – Thank you for posting this story from Jessica! I hope Mr. Bowen has the opportunity to read this and reconnect with her. I know it would mean the world to him to know he made such a difference in one persons life. What an amazing story!

    Kind Regards,
    Heather Grimes (Tautges)

  4. Jamie Bevec (Haag) says:

    Dear Don,
    What a beautifully written story about two beautiful people – thank you for sharing. Mr. Bowen has always had a special place in my heart and this has reconfirmed what a great guy he is. I’m so proud of Jessica and her daughter is one lucky girl!
    Sincerely,
    Jamie Bevec (Haag)

  5. Angela Reynolds says:

    Dear Don,

    What a great story! I went to grade school with Jessica in Arizona. This story really touched me! Personally, my nephew went thru this very similiar scenario and is now attending college in Victoria, Texas he has a full ride scholarship for basketball. He was homeless no job 21yrs old. I flew him to Arizona and he spent this past summer with my family. If it weren’t for some of his high school coaches and teachers he would not be where he is today!! So I am so grateful for Mr. Bowen taking the time to help Jessica thru a very diffucult time in her life! I am sure she will be forever grateful!! Congratulations JESSICA I am so very happy for you to accomplish this goal!! WAY TO GO! Love, Angela (a long lost friend)

  6. Darren Gereau says:

    Dear Don,
    Thank you so much for posting this story about Jessica. I see firsthand everyday how much of a fighter she is. I have never met a stronger woman and given the chance she will put her mind to it and do anything asked. I am so proud of her to go from dropping out to a degree in economics. Not an easy task for anyone! Thanks again for the recognition that a small investment in someone can be a major difference in their life.
    Sincerely,
    Darren Gereau

  7. Amy Barraco says:

    Dear Don.
    This story is amazing & a good read. I was actually best friends with Jessica in the 5th-6th grade in Arizona before she moved. I hope alot of others read it & are touched like I was. I believe in paying it forward….the world needs more Mr. Bowens out there!!! =)

  8. Kristina Beyersdorf says:

    Dear Don,
    What a wonderful story!! Jessica is a very good friend of mine and she has gone through alot to reach her goal. She is tough and I am so proud of her to come this far!! Her daughter is very lucky to have such a great mom!! THis story really touched me and I hope Mr. Bowen will have an opportunity to read this so he can see that she accomplished her dream. Way to go Jess!!! 🙂

  9. Kelly Davis says:

    Dear Don,
    Thank you for sharing such a touching story of two very special people. I went to High School with Jessica and she has always been such an amazing and caring person and I also had Mr. Doug Bowen as my Business teacher and if I remember right, he was going through some tough times as well. I’m proud of you both!!! Jessica, you have accomplished what you set out to do. You’re a strong person, a wonderful mother and you deserve this recognition. You should be proud of yourself!!!!!! I wish I could be there for your graduation to tell you this in person. I am touched to know you and thankful to in some way be a part of this story. Great job Jess!!

  10. Donna says:

    What a refreshing article. I will fwd it to my sons who live in Pagosa Springs.

  11. Bill Hudson says:

    Hi Don, I’d love to have permission to reprint this blog entry in the Pagosa Daily Post. Please let me know.

  12. Hi Don,

    If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to do a piece on this for The SUN but will only do that with your permission (if granted, I’d also like to talk to you about this story). The piece I’d prefer to do would highlight Bowen’s work and reach.

    Please contact me: 970-264-2100

    Regards, Jim

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