Six years ago, a class of 33 sixth grade students at Woodbury Elementary School in Irvine made a deal with financial services company CEO Dan Price.
Both promised to write him letters at the end of each school year through to graduation. In return for when they finished high school and gave him their last letters, he gave each letter writer a $ 1,000 scholarship.
On Monday each of these 33 students gathered in the elementary school where it all began. There they met Price in person, celebrated half of their promise, and received their scholarships – a total of $ 33,000 plus interest on payments from Price.
“Thirty-three letters a year for six years,” Price said. “This one will be the seventh.”
The writing of the letter began when the sixth grade teacher told the class about Price and his decision to cut his own million dollar wage.
Concerned about income inequality, Price made the change in 2015 so that he could pay every employee at Gravity Payments a minimum salary of $ 70,000. That way, they don’t have to worry about basic needs.
When Price received the 6th grade letters, he was so touched by the gesture that he flew to Irvine and promised the scholarship.
The students now preparing for college went through their deals, writing about their lives, their classes, and their dreams.
“Classes I’ve taken … um … I love creative writing, so I would share some of it too,” said student Jolin Chan of her letters.
The students were happy to send the letters, and Price read each one.
“I really enjoyed writing to him every year,” said student Mia Jerphagnon. “It was like a diary.”
For Price, the price tag was worth every penny, and a returned rather than a given. He said he would never forget the lesson sixth grade students taught him:
“What hurts one person hurts everyone,” Price said. “Children have an intuitive feel for it.”
He knows students will continue to pay off kindness even if they go to a corporate America that tests their values.
“These students give me hope for a change in which we can have a better world together,” Price said.