featured-image
Ryan DeVos, Orlando Magic's VP of Shareholder Engagement, and his wife, Michelle DeVos, present Page 15 with $30,000 gift as part of the 30 Grants for 30 Years initiative. The money will go to extending after-school literacy enrichment programming in the Central Florida region.

DeVos Family Foundation Grant Helps “Page 15” Write New Chapter on Childhood Literacy in Central Florida

Dan Savage
Director of Digital News

ORLANDO – Literacy skills and freedom of expression are foundational pieces to childhood success.

Children who are empowered to harness the power and potential of their own voice can grow up to become strong voices in their communities, and in the process, co-write a healthier and brighter future for everyone. That’s the thought process behind Parramore-based Page 15, a program dedicated to enriching Central Florida’s cultural landscape by developing and growing educational and literary arts programs.

Now, as a result of a $30,000 donation from the DeVos Family Foundation through its 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, Page 15 will be able to extend after-school literacy enrichment programming, summer creative writing camps, student publishing outlets, performance opportunities, and community partnerships to meet kids where they are and reach as many children in the Central Florida region as possible.

“(It gives our kids) the sense that our community is listening,” said Page 15 Founder and Executive Director Julia Young. “The (Orlando) Magic community, the DeVos Family Foundation community, they’re listening to what you have to say. They value what you have to say.”

Both the program’s name and its mission are extremely personal to Young. Although she grew up in downtown Orlando, she spent several weeks every summer at her grandparent’s farm in upstate New York. Along with gardening and hiking, she spent much of her time reading. While Young – like her grandmother Teddy Hoover – was an enthusiastic reader, she often struggled to stick with new books beyond the first couple of pages.

One afternoon, as Young sat beside a pile of discarded books, Hoover bestowed upon her granddaughter a new rule of thumb, “When reading a book, you must read until page fifteen before you decide to keep going or to choose a different story.”

That mantra has now inspired generations of young readers throughout Central Florida.

“I’ve always thought that there was just a different way to teach kids to fall in love with reading and writing,” said Young. “I think a lot of that starts with identifying your own voice and how you speak, and how you communicate in the world. Then, finding those pieces of text, or finding that style of writing, or that performance on stage that allows you to communicate your truth and your art and your creativity. I just wanted to provide more opportunities for kids across Central Florida to fall in love with it the way that I did.”

At a time when childhood depression and feelings of isolation have skyrocketed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Page 15 provides a place where children can come to improve vital literacy skills, find their voice, and feel supported by a community of friends and coaches.

“When you have opportunities for kids every single day to write in their own journal – to process some of these big emotions and big experiences that a lot of these children are going through – obviously that repetition over time breeds confidence in their writing and improves their literacy,” said Young. “Being a good audience, giving constructive feedback, and listening with care is something that we practice every day too. It builds connections between communities. They’re hearing other children’s stories. So, they’re really listening. They’re building empathy for other people’s stories. We try to build that into everything that we do.”

As part of the DeVos family’s 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, a total of $3 million will be donated to 30 area nonprofit organizations over 18 months, investing in people and projects impacting youth, essential needs for families, and community enrichment across Central Florida. 

The late Rich DeVos, who bought the Magic in 1991, was often referred to as a chief cheerleader, emanating his compassion for others. In similar fashion to how Hoover’s words inspired Young, DeVos’s mantra is shared by his entire family, who now continue his legacy with the same philanthropic mindset.  

“That was my father. When we first got involved with the team and acquired the franchise, that’s the one thing he said: ‘Don’t call us owners. We’re not owners. We’re caretakers,’” Magic Chairman Dan DeVos explained. “The real stakeholders are the fans and community of Central Florida.”