Billionaire Donates $18M to Andre Agassi's Charter School
Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, the former owner of MGM studios, is donating $18 million to the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, Agassi announced over the weekend.
Kerkorian's gift marks the largest donation in the 16-year history of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, which has raised over $150 million in total.
The Foundation for Education sends funding to Agassi Prep, which has sent every one of its graduates for the past three years to college. The school is located in an "at-risk neighborhood in the urban core of Las Vegas," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Agassi made the announcement at his foundation's 16th Grand Slam for Children Benefit Concert in Las Vegas. Including Kerkorian's $18 million donation, another $1.5 million donation from the Engelstad Family Foundation and $1 million from Windsong Trust (plus ticket sales and auction proceeds), the foundation raised an estimated $26.1 million that night.
"I am both astounded and humbled by the generosity and compassion of our community, the artists, sponsors, partners, and donors," Agassi said in a statement. "This record- breaking evening will make a positive difference in students' lives as we continue to work to transform education."
Agassi said that Kerkorian's donation helped the foundation reach its goal of guaranteeing that Agassi Prep has enough funding to continue in perpetuity.
Kerkorian has long been a family friend of Agassi, and even "put bread" on Agassi's family's table when his father worked at the original MGM Hotel, Agassi said at last year's Grand Slam for Children benefit, according to the Review-Journal.
Last week, Agassi spoke with the Las Vegas Sun about his educational mission and where the motivation came from:
"I think the moment that I really took on the Herculean task of building a K-12 charter school in the most economic-challenged area of Las Vegas was when I was at my lowest point, quite ironically. I was stuck at No. 140 in the world after being No. 1 in the world and very disconnected with my life, in a life I just didn't recognize anymore. You read all about that depression and anguish in my book.
"The only thing that made sense to me, of choosing going nowhere or taking ownership of my life, was to use my tennis for something that really resonated with me, and that was impacting children. And the greatest way to do that was through education, so that's when I said I'm going to build my school, and I'm going to use that vehicle as the one thing that gets me to connect with this very sport that I spent, unfortunately, too long in my life not loving."
Earlier this year, Agassi teamed up with a group of Los Angeles bankers to create a for-profit investment fund aimed at raising $750 million for the construction of 75 charter schools over the next few years.
Agassi isn't the only professional sports icon who's wading into the charter school waters.
Back in September, the Texas board of education approved the charter school bid of former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders.
Assuming all goes according to plan, Sanders will open two campuses of PrimeU Prep Academy next year—one in Fort Worth and another in Dallas.
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