From Oprah to Taylor Swift to Tobias Harris, celebrities and professional athletes have long donated part of their fortunes to schools.
But a growing number of stars are taking their investment in education to the next level. They are launching entire schools related to their interests, helping students in their hometowns, or bringing their connections together to link academics to the entertainment industry.
It all started in earnest in 2011, when NBA great LeBron James and his foundation partnered with Akron Public Schools, seeking to lift a generation of children out of poverty in his hometown of Ohio. Now actor George Clooney and music legend Dr. Dre are promising money and connections to the Los Angeles Unified School District, while rapper Pitbull’s sports-themed charter school has gone. extended to three states.
The charitable efforts of the rich and famous can take many forms. From a financial standpoint, the tax implications for the donor are the same whether you donate to schools or any other public charity, said Lawrence Zelenak, law professor at Duke University. But the sound of good publicity can be louder when a donor opens a school, not to mention the feeling of shaping children’s education and the opportunities they will receive as a result.
In the latest round of school philanthropy, a group of prominent players including George Clooney, Don Cheadle and Mindy Kaling are teaming up with Los Angeles Unified to launch a Magnetic School, the district announced last month. The goal: to give underserved students a head start in the film and television industry.
Also in June, district officials announced that recording artist Andre Young, known as Dr. Dre., And record director Jimmy Iovine would partner with the district to open a new high school focused on business and technology.
“I want to encourage people like us who have been lucky and have managed to come to these neighborhoods and really do something positive,” Iovine said at a press conference in Los Angeles on June 16.
LA Superintendent Austin Beutner, a wealthy businessman whose connections have helped spur partnerships, said philanthropic gifts to schools are always welcome, but the latest donation archetype includes time, capital human, relations and relations with the industry. In short: the things money can’t buy, what might make or break a student’s interest in staying engaged.
“The common theme between these two schools is that of highly invested people trying to create the education of the future,” said Beutner.
LA schools will merge Hollywood and academics
The two new LA schools are expected to launch in fall 2022. In addition to Clooney, the Magnet School is expected to involve cast / producers Eva Longoria, Grant Heslov, Kerry Washington and Nicole Avant, as well as founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. of Working Title Films, and Bryan Lourd, co-president of Creative Artists Agency.
The school will be called the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, and the founding members will sit on the school’s board of trustees to “build a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry” , said the district.
Celebrities, or at least people in their network of influence and expertise, will work with district staff to design a program that connects academics with real-world work. It could mean the chemistry of applying makeup or the physics of setting and lighting, Beutner said.
“The idea is to create a curriculum that we can then adapt to 22 other schools,” Beutner said in an interview. “They can also help children access internships.
Young and Iovine’s school in South Los Angeles is expected to help students make connections between the creative, financial, and marketing aspects of the music industry.
“We are here strictly for the kids and trying to give them a future and something promising that may not have been available before,” Young said at a press conference.
Miami SLAM School launched by Pitbull
Other celebrities have started charter schools, which are public schools run by private companies, in their hometowns.
Pitbull, who calls himself “Mr. Worldwide” and “Mr. 305” – a nod to the area code of his hometown of Miami – helped launch a growing chain of charter schools focused about sport. The flagship Sports Leadership Arts and Management Charter School, or SLAM, opened in Miami in 2012. The school focuses on underserved students and links courses to careers in the sports industry, from sports medicine to broadcasting to marketing. Students even run and produce a Sirius XM channel, SLAM Radio
SLAM was built on the backbone of Academica, an educational services provider that manages office operations for more than 200 charter schools, many of them in Florida.
The model has become so popular that the SLAM Foundation now operates a total of 12 campuses serving more than 5,500 students in Florida, Nevada and Atlanta, according to Milie Sanchez, the organization’s executive director. The Foundation plans to open a new K-12 school in Mesa, Arizona, in 2022.
Armando Christian Pérez – Pitbull’s real name – continues to support the foundation, Sanchez said. Before the pandemic, he visited all schools at least once a year, often as part of his tour schedule. He also coordinates other celebrities, local artists or university professors coming to schools to speak or mentor students.
“Thanks to Armando, we have had the opportunity for our students to benefit from workshops and programs sponsored by partners such as Microsoft, Google and NBC Universal and the Latin Grammy Foundation,” she said.
Common and Chance the Rapper invest in Chicago
Two Chicago rappers have invested in their hometown educational scene. Emmy, GRAMMY and Oscar winning rapper and activist Common helped launch the Art in Motion charter school on the city’s South Rim in 2019.
Art in Motion is part of a network of charter schools managed by Distinctive Schools.
“The revolution is not just economic and social, it’s also emotional, and we’re going to have all of these aspects here at this school so that our children can breathe and see and dream,” Common said in a ceremony recorded at the school course. opening.
Chance the Rapper, also born and raised in Chicago, has taken a more direct route to support the traditional public school district: it has contributed more than $ 2 million to help Chicago’s public schools support arts programming.
Former NBA player Jalen Rose remains involved in Detroit charter
Over a decade ago, former NBA player Jalen Rose co-founded the charter high school Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in his hometown of Detroit.
Rose, a sports analyst for ESPN, is chair of the school’s board of directors and remains involved in day-to-day operations by mentoring students and also leading fundraising efforts, according to her assistant, Michelle Ruscitti-Miller.
LeBron James School in Akron, Ohio is a community effort
In the summer of 2011, more than 300 third-graders identified by the Akron School District for their poor reading scores enrolled in the I Promise program, an effort by the LeBron James Family Foundation that would give them laptops and bikes.
Since then, I Promise has grown from a biking giveaway to a service-oriented program that supports 1,100 Akron students across the district, in grades six to eleven. The foundation opened a real district school in 2018, which now accommodates 343 students in grades three to five. There are housing for homeless families and partnerships with Kent State University and Akron University that offer I Promise students a path to four years of free tuition.
National attraction:Educators meet in Akron to learn from the success of the I Promise school
The school has gained national attention in educational and philanthropic circles for its efforts to meet the comprehensive needs of students with services such as a full pantry and on-site laundry facilities. James has also been involved throughout the journey, taking kids to awards ceremonies and documentaries.
“People ask me, ‘Why a school?'” James said at the opening of the I Promise Academy in 2018. He said he knew exactly what the school’s 240 inaugural students were going through. because he had already experienced it.
“I know the streets they walk on. I know the trials and tribulations they go through. I know the ups and downs. I know all the things they dream of and the nightmares they have,” he said. -he adds. “They are the reason this school is here today.
Contribution: Jennifer Pignolet of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Contact Erin Richards at (414) 207-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @emrichards.