In light of the recent passing of the musical icon Prince, I want to provide a short reflection on his influence on the Harvest Network of Schools. The Harvest Network of Schools is a high-performing group of K-8 public charter schools (Harvest Preparatory School, Best Academy and the Mastery School) serving scholars from north Minneapolis and beyond. Prince essentially helped to launch the expansion of our schools in the early 1990s. In 1993, he made a $200,000 contribution to our schools. Not only was the size of his gift significant, but what was even more significant was its timing. His gift literally provided the funds we needed to buy our facility at 1300 Olson Hwy. and expand our programs, which now serve 1,300 scholars on two campuses in north Minneapolis, with a third campus opening at 4021 Thomas Av. N. in fall 2016. We project an enrollment of 3,800 scholars in our Harvest Network schools all across north Minneapolis by 2025.
What is most significant about Prince is that I never met him or talked to him by phone. He never asked for a thank-you, although we sent him thank-you letters and cards for many years after that. He never acknowledged publicly, and had no desire to acknowledge, that he played such a significant role in our organization.
As I read and hear news reports about his philanthropy around the world, it is clear to me that this was an important value of his. He gave because this was in his heart; it was who he was. He was fulfilling a human need — his own and that of others. But his need was one of feeling significant by quietly helping others.
This is a value that we teach to our scholars and that is reflected in our staff. No matter what role our staff members play in the organization, from teacher to administrator to janitor, we strive to demonstrate that same Prince Rogers Nelson spirit. Our staff members quietly give to our children every day in their own way and expect nothing in return.
I thank God for Prince’s impact on our organization and for our amazing staff members who are having an impact on our community, quietly but significantly.
Let us all dedicate ourselves to waking up each day with a goal to use our unique gifts to strengthen our community.
Eric Y. Mahmoud is founder and president and CEO of the Harvest Network of Schools.