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Meet civic investor Ben Oliver: Investing in voice

Ben Oliver shares his passion for education and for students as the Community Foundation's Challenge Scholars Advisor.
Ben Oliver

Ben Oliver /Eric Tank

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Prior to his move to Grand Rapids, civic investor Ben Oliver attended Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

“During my time there I was focused on getting good grades, developing my intellect and discovering myself and my personal journey,” says Oliver. As an honors student and a history major, he recalls the ample opportunities to be buried in books and homework.

“I felt detached and as if I was operating on a different level than my peers,” says Oliver. “My ‘job’ was to read and to write. There wasn’t a strong element for human connection.” Knowing this, he decided to seek out opportunities to give back to his peers and the community around him. Oliver decided to develop an environmental branch of a campus organization called Action.

“We started several successful recycling programs on campus and really grew the consciousness of environmentalism on campus,” he says. There was something special about this responsibility that made Oliver change direction.

“When you put in energy and passion into something like the environmental group and you see people getting excited about the impact, it’s quite something,” says Oliver. “I was hooked.”

Today, Oliver sits as Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Challenge Scholars Advisor, where he assists parents and students through the educational journey to see to it that students are able to qualify for free college tuition through the Challenge Scholars program.

“We’re trying to remove any and all barriers from the equation so students in the Grand Rapids Public School system and their parents can see that college is possible,” says Oliver. As Challenge Scholars Advisor and an advocate for education, Oliver also possesses a passion for The Rapidian and its opportunities for students.

“The Rapidian is a great resource for students to use throughout their educational journey. It gives them a platform to have a voice,” says Oliver. “The students can see their work published and share it with those around them. I think this helps create not only a stronger sense of voice for the students, but for our community as well.”

Thanks to Oliver’s investment in education and giving students a voice, The Rapidian can continue to grow as something that, as he says, “brings people together across communities.”

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