FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Above all things, Andre Agassi is a class act. A fan favorite for the 21 years he participated in the US Open, yet tonight he returned, not as a player, but to be honored, as someone who gives back.
Through his foundation, the retired 39 year-old star has started a school for underprivileged kids in Las Vegas. His plan is to improve education in the state of Nevada through his his education system.
“My hope,” Agassi said, “is in a state that’s 50th in the United States, kids we put into college, that somehow as a motto as my school [improve that number].”
Agassi has testified in front of the Nevada Senate on how to improve that number. Because the state is last in the country, he feels “a little help can go a long ways.” It is that reason why he started his charter school through the Agassi Foundation. Whereas tennis was his life, he is now an educator and a pretty good one.
Maybe it’s because he wasn’t a good student as a youth. A rebel, who found solace on the hard courts, Agassi is now looking to use his fame and fortune to improve the under privileged. So instead of sending his children to his school, the affable star is using all the spots “to those who need it.”
“When I say a 20/20 piece where they were showing Michael Feinberg, who is with the Kipp Program, I was really taken by charter schools. I thought the model itself made more sense,” Agassi said. “We can hold students accountable, teachers accountable, parents accountable. We can have longer school days, longer school years, time on tests, and no shortcuts.
“It all sort of connected with everything I’ve learned on the tennis court. Then I set out about trying to figure out how to do it, and made a lot of mistakes and continued to learn from it. But we are getting better at the money we need to fund. In other words, we are starting to get a reasonable level of funding that’s scalable. We’re starting to get results that every parent would want for their child and things are happening.”
Agassi graduated his first class this year and now the K-12 school is considered the model for a tuition free charter school. Tuition is free and is based solely on the foundation’s efforts.
This is the former star’s way of giving back. He is looking to continue the school’s growth and eventually use its success to make a change in the education system in the country. Yet, right now, he knows the tough task he has in front of him.
“There’s a number of ways to scale this,” he said. “I think the ultimately what we are going to find is legislative change that can trickle and affect a lot of children across America. Our standards are pretty low right now. Even in the good schools we’re not even thinking globally as how we compare to the rest of the world.”
Much like his career, Agassi is a surprise and this new endeavor just is a continuation of his success. For 21 years he was a champion of the people at the US Open, now he’s a champion for the few under privileged children in Las Vegas.