When Marty Bauer was growing up in Grants Pass he figured, like many of his friends, that when he graduated from high school he would get a job in one of the local lumber mills or manufacturing companies in the area. There wasn't a wide range of career choices for a young man to consider. "It was a beautiful place to grow up," said Marty. "But my perspective on the world was pretty small."
That changed for Marty thanks in large part to the influence of three very important people in his life: his father, a grade school principal and his high school counselor.
Marty's dad was a German immigrant, a meat cutter by trade, who taught his son the value of hard work and sticking to your goals even in the face of adversity. Adversity came in 1957 when a fire burned through the Bauer family home causing severe damage. Grants Pass was a small and tight knit community in those days and many people responded with kind support to help the family. One such person was Marty's grade school principal Bill Baker. Baker was principal at Fruitdale Elementary school, and after the fire destroyed the Bauer home he took in the family for a couple of weeks while they found more permanent accommodations. That experience taught Marty an important life lesson - community is an extension of family, and people can make a real difference helping others.
"Mr. Baker was very important to me," said Bauer. "He had the rare knack of being able to communicate with kids at their level, but maintain his role as the teacher."
Marty describes Baker as someone the kids respected for his toughness, but who was always ready with a warm smile. "He could be tough, but you always knew he cared about you. That is very important in a young person's life. He helped us all find direction."
By the time Marty graduated Fruitdale Elementary, he knew he needed a college education in order to get ahead. Mr. Baker had taught him that. "Mr. Baker knew my family couldn't afford college," said Marty. "But he gave me a road map…do well in sports and academics and one of them will get you a scholarship."
At Grants Pass High School, Marty's high school counselor, Howard Harrison, took a personal interest in him. Like Bill Baker, he stressed to Marty that education was the key to a brighter future, and that he should never take the path of least resistance. Harrison's credo was to take on the biggest challenges offered, so he encouraged Marty to think big about his education and even consider applying to the country's most selective colleges. This was something Marty hadn't considered before. "He was telling me to think about applying to schools like Stanford and Princeton," said Marty. "I hadn't thought about it that way, and it really put my achievement in a larger context."
Marty took his mentors' advice to heart and committed himself to doing well in school. He worked very hard on his studies and "gave it his all" on the athletic field, and when he finished high school Marty had a 3.9 GPA and was selected "All State" in three sports, and was student body president. During the spring of his senior year, as Marty waited to hear about his college applications, Mr. Harrison loaned Marty his car so he could drive across town to check his mail box for the news that he hoped would change his world. Then one sunny day, he reached into the mail box and pulled out several envelopes - acceptance letters from Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Lewis and Clark. Marty could barely stand the excitement and drove faster than he probably should have back across town to show his counselor the acceptance letter. The two slapped "high fives" and shouted with joy. "I think he was as excited about it as I was," said Marty. "That's the kind of guy he was."
After graduating from Princeton, Marty worked for the university. He visited 38 different states, but found that nothing compared to the beauty of Southern Oregon. He returned home and began building his own development and investment company, Portola Properties. That was nearly thirty-years ago. Today, like his own mentors, Marty has been a Rotarian for over 30 years, serving on many local and international service projects. He has served as the chairman of the Rogue Basin Flood Control & Water Resource Association, as a board member of Family Friends, an organization that provides counseling for sexually abused children, and for six years he was a member of the Three Rivers School Board.
Marty is currently the co-chair of the Three Rivers Partnership for Student Success - Freshmen with Futures program. The school district was selected to participate in a statewide initiative sponsored by E3: Employers for Education Excellence, a non-profit organization founded by the Oregon Business Council dedicated to dramatically improving student learning and achievement in Oregon public schools.
The Three Rivers program will connect freshmen with local business leaders to help students see how their education fits into the larger world - and that there are opportunities for them beyond what they see in their neighborhood if they're willing to work hard for it.
Studies show that students who have a successful 9th grade experience almost always graduate from high school, and a key factor for success is the support of parents and other adults who help them understand why education is important.
The goal of the Freshmen with Futures program is to get 100 community volunteers to meet for an hour a month with small groups of freshmen at Hidden Valley, Illinois Valley and North Valley High School to help them establish a bridge between what happens in the classroom and the "real world of work."
"Adult mentors can really make a difference in a student's attitude, confidence and life choices," said Marty. "I was lucky enough to have people believe in me and push me to work harder and dream bigger. That's what we're trying to do with this program, and why we are encouraging all local business leaders to get involved."
It's a program Marty can relate to.
Employers interested in participating in the Freshmen with Futures program can contact Jann Taylor, Three Rivers School District at 541-862-3111 ex: 5207