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Mark Larson '97

A Spire for the Underserved

By Donna Parker

In the corporate world, the individual with the most power wins, but in Chief Executive Officer Mark Larson’s universe, the key to success is knowledge, then power—through education.  Mark, who received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1997, his master’s in teaching in 1998, and his master’s in school administration in 2002 all from Trinity, helped found the KIPP Aspire Academy in San Antonio. The academy is part of a national network of free, college preparatory schools for disadvantaged middle school students, intent on changing the landscape of inner city education. 

“This academy stemmed from the recognition that students coming from inner city schools were grade levels behind others and it was critical that intervention begin earlier for them – in middle school.  In the six years since our doors opened, we’ve enrolled 550 students, many of whom attained the highest reading scores in the city, beating out the best of public schools,” says Mark, proudly. 

Mark, recently awarded the 2008 Outstanding Young San Antonian Distinguished Service Award from the Rotary Club, sounds much like a proud father when he says, “The story here is the school, not me.  This Rotary award is for the school and its own accomplishments.”

“Many of our students spoke Spanish as their first language.  They have little parental support at home because most of their parents work two jobs.  Now, these kids are attending class for 9 ½ hours a day from 7:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.   Throw in two Saturdays a month, three weeks in the summer and 90 minutes of homework a night and you begin to get the idea of just how hard these kids work.”

“Looking back, I realize Trinity taught me that I could change an environment through leadership.  In college, I was head of the Inter-Fraternity Council and, after recognizing an unmet opportunity, was able to help create two new fraternities – the Phi Sigma Chi and International Fraternity.  I guess that’s where it was set in my head; you really can change things.  So when I got the chance to start this school, I’d already had experience.”

“The department of education at Trinity, in particular, was wonderful.  John Moore, Angela Breidenstein, Tom Sergiovanni and Paul Kelleher, all in the department of education, helped me define who I could become and get a sense of what that looked like.”

Mark, who married a fellow Trinity graduate, Angie Boudreau ‘97, also stays busy with his family – Elijah, 5 and Samuel, 3. It may surprise you to know, however, that rather than just ferrying the kids to soccer practice, Mark and Angie play on a soccer team themselves. 

“Angie played at Trinity and is quite good, but I’m usually the last guy off the bench!” he jokes.

“Really, what we love is to spend time with our boys, swimming at every opportunity, going on hikes or just kicking a ball around the yard.”

Even with all that Mark has helped create, he says his greatest achievement has been “working to develop the family and creating a home with my wife.”

“My peers and professors would attest that while at Trinity my GPA didn’t reflect a lot of hard work.  But now that I’ve found something I’m passionate about, it’s a driving force in my life.  That part of my life has really taken off.”

You may contact Mark at mlarson@aspireacademy.org.