Andre Agassi: An Ace for Education
News The tennis pro was a star on the court. Now he’s leading the way to make kids stars in the classroom.
Andre Agassi has earned 60 men’s singles titles, including eight Grand Slam singles championships over a 20-year career. But he isn’t retired; his latest passion is helping kids of all ages and backgrounds get an education.
“Education is about giving tools to a child to pursue a future of their choosing,” says Agassi, adding that that future might not always mean college.
The champ, who has two children with his tennis-superstar wife Stefanie Graf, says his own lack of education (he turned pro at age 16) and subsequent lack of choices provided the foundation for dealing with education concerns, which he calls “a daunting societal issue.”
Agassi began by helping kids in unfortunate circumstances, creating the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, which included projects like building a shelter in Las Vegas for abused and neglected children, and also creating the Andre Agassi Boys and Girls Club.
"At a time when schools face underfunding, overcrowding and lack of supplies, Agassi says America’s education system needs to be fixed. And he has a solution."
Over time, he realized he needed to do more. “I always felt like I was sticking Band Aids on real issues,” he says. So he decided to start his own K-12 charter school in his hometown of Las Vegas.
The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (Agassi Prep) was considered a model charter school. Its first senior class in June 2009 graduated with a 100 percent college acceptance rate, which was the same rate for graduates in 2010 and 2011.
“The culture of accountability is a crucial component to education,” says Agassi. “You need children to be accountable to the opportunity and you need teacher accountable to their efforts.” He also says parents need to be accountable, too, to help kids succeed.
At a time when schools face underfunding, overcrowding and lack of supplies, Agassi says America’s education system needs to be fixed. And he has a solution.
Agassi co-founded Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund with Turner Impact Capital, LLC. The market-driven real estate investment fund, which is designed to accelerate the growth of high-performing charter schools, is set to develop nearly 200 schools by 2020 in high-need areas throughout the United States.
The program works because, “we could bring private capital to build these facilities at no cost to taxpayers,” says Agassi. “We’ve built 65 schools in the last 3 years around the country with an out-of-the-box model that’s completely focused on going to the private sector to solve some of these daunting societal challenges.” So far, they’ve spent $550 million on the schools.
Teaching with tech
Agassi, hopeful about the future of education, is particularly encouraged by kids learning to read at an early age. He also says tech can help prepare students for 21st century jobs.
“Technology has given us the opportunity,” says Agassi, detailing “a more personalized level of engagement inside a classroom to lead a student—from where they are, to the next step in their learning.”