Andre Agassi will open 39 more charter schools

Updated: 2014-05-20 11:21

By Chang Jun in Las Vegas (China Daily USA)

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Andre Agassi, the world's former No 1 tennis player, said that his Andre Agassi Foundation and his real estate-investment fund will oversee 39 more US public charter schools nationwide by the end of August.

The next school to open will be in San Jose, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the 44-year-old Agassi told China Daily on May 6 in an interview.

The foundation now operates one public charter school, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (AACPA), which opened in 2001 in Clark County, Nevada.

Agassi, who dropped out of school in the ninth grade to pursue fame and fortune on the tennis court - he won eight Grand Slams and a 1996 Olympic gold medal - said he will keep investing in education to help economically challenged children have opportunities to learn because education gives them freedom to shape their future.

"Never stop investing in your future, that is your children. When you do that, you suffer from insufficiency, your country goes nowhere and you fail your next generation," said Agassi. "You just don't give up, it's not over yet."

The foundation initially focused on a wide range of programs to help children by "doing little things for some food, some shelter, some boys and girls clubs," he said. However, he said those temporary fixes would not solve long-term problems. "Early on, we concluded that the best way to change a child's life was through education," Agassi said.

He said that he and his foundation felt a pressing need to improve local public education in Nevada because it lags far behind the rest of the US states. Clark County is one of the biggest school districts in the nation and has a population of 80 percent blacks and around 10 percent Latinos, with many families under state poverty guidelines.

Charter schools must provide their own facilities, so the Andrew Agassi Charitable Foundation (AACP) raised funds to construct a $40 million school campus in the west Las Vegas community. "I felt if I can improve here, I can improve anywhere," said Agassi.

AACPA started tuition-free programs for grades 3 through 5. Enrollments were conducted through a public computer-based lottery system. Preference is given to children living in a two-mile radius from the school, and there are no entrance exams, according to Chris Smith, head of the school. He said AACPA has expanded each year and is now a K through 12 school with 1,200 students.

The most important resources of the school are our teachers and staff, said Agassi. "They are centralized around children's success. They get into this environment that they can teach the kids, and the kids thrive on whatever they do in the future," he said, adding the school holds every teacher accountable for the performance of their students.

Another key element of the school is educators who set high expectations for the students. To maximize the opportunity for academic achievement, students attend school for an additional two hours each day and an additional two weeks per year, said Francisco Aguilar, general counsel with the foundation.

 Andre Agassi will open 39 more charter schools

Former world No 1 tennis player Andre Agassi attends a kindergarten class at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Chang Jun / China Daily

(China Daily USA 05/20/2014 page3)