By Eric de Groot

One of the main reasons why it is so great to live, work and play in Sandy Springs is the public school system. ‘Yeah, right,’ you may say. But have you ever really looked into it?

What is the value of a good school in the community? It is almost impossible to give an exact value, but a well-run and performing school brings continuity, balance, stability, security and pride to its neighbors. Before opening a business or purchasing a home, buyers usually make an in-depth analysis as to the school district, its environment, the local assets, and the value it represents.

Beginning this school year, I started my tenure as president of the Riverwood Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization working in concert with the Riverwood International Charter School. Together with my fellow board members, it is my pleasure to serve and make a difference.

Though my ‘allegiance’ lies with Riverwood, it is my objective to engage the other schools in Sandy Springs. Presently we are in touch with the Foundation of the North Springs Charter High School and are actively working on building a coalition with the foundations of all schools in Sandy Springs, so together we can locate grants and partner with all corporations who believe in the importance of education.

Getting back to Riverwood, it was founded in 1972, and is truly one of the hidden gems of Sandy Springs, in this not-so sleepy suburb of almost 100,000 residents.

Riverwood has a challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) program and the school’s honor roll and VIP lists typically include more than 400 students (from 49 countries and speaking 23 languages).

In addition, did you know that Riverwood a) has graduates accepted to more than 170 colleges and universities, including many Ivy League schools, who were offered $11.5 million in scholarships; b) is listed by The Washington Post as the No. 1 public high school in Fulton County, the No. 3 in Georgia and No. 148 in the country?

When we hear about education and high school, we all have our own personal and fond memories, though they may seem long ago and an eternity away. Having high school kids, as I do, brings you back to that place where young adulthood began. Needless to say, much has changed.

What has not changed is that education, especially in these times, is paramount in our economy. Though only 40 percent of our population may be ‘kids,’ they are 100 percent of the future. Our future can only be as strong as the education we receive, the leadership that is devoted to this notion and those who act upon it.

For years I have been talking about a “culture of giving”. Please understand that giving is not always monetary. Sure, we need and are all interested in legacy and matching gifts, ensuring that the budget gaps are covered; however, there are many other ways to work together and share the economic burden that lies before us. Young people need direction and experience and there is only one way to get it: internships or jobs. Your interest and participation in such programs may be worth its weight in gold for any senior or student.

If you agree that Riverwood and the other Sandy Springs schools contribute to society, your local neighborhood and your businesses, my question to you is this: Will you partner with all of us and contribute to our joint future?

My goal is to elevate education and position the Riverwood International Charter High School as an asset in the community. After all, this is the community where you work, live and or play. Though we are not a landmark, we are a very special magnet and I hope that you will join us and participate in our Leadership Luncheon on Nov. 4 to experience this first hand.

Pick up the phone or send me an e-mail if you want to contribute, individually or professionally, and make a difference – today for tomorrow.

Eric A. de Groot is president of the Riverwood Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Riverwood International Charter High School. He can be reached at Edegroot@HollandAmericaChamber.com.