Randy Bowman wants everyone to have an equal shot at the American dream. Bowman grew up in Pleasant Grove, but has lived in Preston Hollow for 20 years. Bowman is using his success as a lawyer and businessman to create free boarding houses where poor inner-city students can shower, eat and get homework help. His organization, At Last!, recently received a $150,000 grant from the Hoblitzelle Foundation—a strong first step toward their goal of $2.5 million.
What was your childhood in Pleasant Grove like?
It was a long, impoverished, introspective childhood. It doesn’t make for a good comic book, but it was good for teaching. It was a great way to learn compassion. It also left me with some desire to have life play out differently for my mother and myself once I became an adult. The notion was always that I just wanted to make this thing a little bit better. That was sort of the neighborhood creed. You looked out for each other as best you can with your modest resources.
How did you come up with the idea for At Last!?
I see the world through the eyes of a poor person. I wanted to create upward mobility for the impoverished where they have a rational shot at making something good happen with their lives. There’s a suite of educational tools and resources available to middle class and affluent children when they’re at home that are not available to impoverished children. Not because the parents of impoverished children don’t care. Rather, it’s because they don’t have those resources to provide.
How does At Last! work?
We have two important parts of our solution: one is the residence and the other is the programming, which we sort of refer to as our optimized developmental ecosystem. The programming is designed to teach kids two important skills: executive function and learning to learn. It’s the development of those executive function skills that help you be successful when you first go on to college, when you take on civic roles, when you get your first job. Also, someone has to teach you how it is that you learn.
How did it feel to get a grant from The Hoblitzelle Foundation?
I was walking around Tom Thumb in the produce section, grabbing something before I came home for dinner, and that’s when I got the news. That’s probably the most animated, constrained celebration in Tom Thumb’s produce section that has ever happened.
When did you move to Preston Hollow?
I moved to the Preston Hollow area in 1998 with the birth of our second child, when my beloved mother-in-law said, “If you want me to help with that second child, you might want to move closer to where I live.’”
Do you still visit Pleasant Grove?
I still go to The Grove to see my barber, and he’s a guy I sat next to in the seventh grade because that’s my guy. And in the barber chair next to him is another guy that I’ve known since he was a kid. So, it was never my desire to get out of The Grove. It was my desire to get out of poverty. So, what I hope will happen with this program is this is a continuation of a lift-as-you-climb journey. As you climb one rung up the socioeconomic ladder, what’s it hurting you to pull somebody up with you?
Interview edited for clarity and brevity.
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