From Diddy To Denzel: Celebs Who Started And Funded Schools
News about the opening of Diddy’s Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School broke earlier this week. More than five years in the making, the school opened its doors to 160 6th and 7th graders, and will expand a grade every year until they have their first 12th-grade class. Naturally, we got to thinking about other like-minded celebs who invested in children and education, building tomorrow’s leaders today. The following celebrities know that supporting or sponsoring a school is no easy or simple task and have faced hardships along the way that have either made schools stronger or forced them to shut down completely. Operating a school requires a lot of moving parts, but at the end of the day, the children’s needs always come first. Read on for celebrities who have financially aided and supported elementary, middle and high schools, and colleges in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Media maven Oprah Winfrey opened her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in January 2007. The school has grown one grade per year until it reached full capacity of approximately 380 students in grades 8 through 12. Though one of the school’s matron’s was charged with sexually molesting some of the students and has since been fired, in addition to the school’s headmistress, Winfrey has remained fully dedicated to her girls. She has famously said, “When you’re changing a girl’s life, it’s not just that life you start to affect a family, a community, a nation.”
Serena’s non-profit, the Serena Williams Fund, helps ensure equal access to education. The fund partnered with Helping Hand Jamaica to build Salt Marsh Primary School. Williams has also helped to build schools in Uganda and Kenya.
In 2011, former NBA player Jalen Rose founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA), a Detroit-based open enrollment, public charter high school. The school’s mission is to fully prepare their scholars for success in college.
Will and Jada Smith
“It” couple Will and Jada Smith founded the New Village Leadership Academy School in 2008. Located in Calabasas, California, NVLA was designed to create a fun learning experience for children and to cultivate their interests. The private school, with a yearly tuition of $22,500, offered financial assistance to nearly 80 percent of its students. The school closed in 2013, however, as allegations arose of the curriculum being closely tied to Scientology, which the Smiths denied.
Magic Johnson’s Bridgescape Academies are aimed at “bridging the gap and opening the doors for ‘non-graduates.’” The curriculum is designed by EdisonLearning eCourses and the school has several locations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia.
Located in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, Prime Prep Academy opened its doors to students in 2012. Co-founded by former NFL player Deion Sanders, who also coached at the school, Prime Prep was promptly shut down three years later due to severe financial mismanagement.
Pitbull, a.k.a., Mr. Worldwide’s Sports Leadership And Management Academy (SLAM) opened in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood in 2013. It’s a public charter school for students in grades six through 12 and has both a sports theme and vocational slant.
Launched in 2011, Dwight Howard’s D12 Foundation launched. One of D12’s goals is girls’ empowerment through education – specifically girls in East Africa. “When you educate a woman, you lift up a nation.”
Denzel gifted his alma mater, Fordham University, with over $2 million. The money provided a new scholarship for theater majors and also allotted for a chair in theater position.