The Arash Ferdowsi Fund was recently established as a part of the Blue Valley Educational Foundation (BVEF) by Northwest alumni, Arash Ferdowsi.
Ferdowsi graduated from BVNW in 2004, he then went on to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for three years before he decided to change his focus to his business, Dropbox. When reflecting on his experience in Blue Valley, Ferdowsi said the community was very welcoming.
“My parents were born in Iran and then immigrated here before I was born. I have friends in other communities or schools where they didn’t feel like it was the most welcoming environment as a child of an immigrant,” Ferdowsi said. “But for me, when I think back, I feel like the people in Kansas, Blue Valley specifically, were really warm and inviting and made me feel just like anyone else.”
Ferdowsi said attending Northwest impacted his career decisions mainly by way of having the assistance to get into MIT. He said the college coordinator at the time, Mary Friend, was especially helpful. Although she passed away about two years ago, he said her efforts were very important to his success.
“I don’t know that I would have gotten into MIT without Mary Friend’s help. [MIT is] where I met my co-founder, and so that example really sticks out to me as someone who put in a lot more hours than she needed to,” Ferdowsi said. “It wasn’t just a job for her.”
Ferdowsi recently worked with BVEF to establish a fund that will go toward teacher grants and other initiatives to give back to the Blue Valley community. As an initial investment, Ferdowsi contributed $500,000 to the fund. Joy Ginsburg, the Executive Director of BVEF, said the foundation originally reached out to the Ferdowsi family to see if they would be interested in doing something with the district.
“It was a very easy conversation and their family cares deeply about educational excellence in our community, and they definitely understood the importance of the impact Blue Valley makes on students,” Ginsburg said.
The Arash Ferdowsi Fund, Ginsburg said, is being invested in the stock market and will hopefully grow over time. She said BVEF will only pull a small amount annually until it is invested appropriately and makes more money over time.
In addition to the financial benefits, Ferdowsi believes the fund has greater implications for the community.
“It’s also just a good story and motivation, or really validation, for all the educators at those schools and in Blue Valley that their work matters, that they played a big role in my success and this results in me sort of paying it back,” Ferdowsi said. “So, I think that’s a good message for both the people who are teaching at Northwest but also to potential future donors.”
Ginsburg agreed that the fund will have a meaningful impact on Blue Valley and its families.
“I would hope that other Blue Valley Northwest students will feel a sense of pride, but also a sense of feeling that you guys can accomplish these amazing things,” Ginsburg said. “You could follow in his footsteps, you guys have all these tools. You are so smart; you have so much to give to the community and to the world. And, the sky’s the limit.”