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Lifting Them Higher

BY Michael McCarthy | November 9, 2016 | Feature Features

Mega-developer Mitchell Schear loves to change communities through his work—inside and outside the boardroom.
Mitchell Schear says his work with Higher Achievement is all about doing something that's lasting and transformative.

Mitchell Schear’s first trips to DC as a child were a little different than most. The journeys weren’t to stroll through the National Gallery of Art or any of the Smithsonian museums, but they were still wildly educational and had an impact that lasts to this day. “My parents worked tirelessly for civil rights,” say Schear, president of Vornado Realty Trust, one of the area’s mega-developers that recently spawned The Bartlett in Arlington, Va. “[So] my first trips to Washington were with my family to protest on behalf of racial and economic equality. I think activism is in my DNA.”

And so is volunteerism. Schear is now board president for Higher Achievement, which helps develop academic skills and behaviors for underserved middle school children. This month’s gala aims to match last year’s $1.5 million total. “I’ve gotten to know the Higher Achievement scholars [and] their families, and I’m inspired every day by their courage and commitment,” says Schear. He notes that the graduation rate for Higher Achievement kids is 95 percent (compared to 64 percent among other students in the District), and 93 percent matriculate in college. “Middle school is when self-esteem is shaped; life-altering paths are chosen; academic habits are created; and kids are most vulnerable socially. Half of school dropouts happen after middle school. This is when we can actually transform lives and futures.”

For this month’s gala at the Warner Theatre, Schear loves that it’s actually emceed by seventh- and eighth-graders. “You’ll find business leaders, scholars and scholar-families mingling and dancing together with a spirit that feels very different from most Washington events,” he says. Schear is also aware that every charitable action we take—regardless of its size or scope—has a lasting local impact that’s transformative. With Higher Achievement, “the ripple effect on families, communities and our city is very powerful.” Nov. 2, $250, 513 13th St. NW,

Spinning, Chocolove, ’70s music, Sweetgreen, inspiring Crystal City startups, fresh architecture and design, face-to-face meetups

Jogging, golf, traditional business models, too much screen time, hierarchy, red tape, stodginess

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