After nearly two decades of magic on the tennis court, Andre Agassi is ready to tackle his next big challenge: giving large numbers of underprivileged children a chance to succeed through charter schools.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Agassi planned on teaming up with a group of Los Angeles bankers to create a for-profit investment fund dedicated to raising money for charter school construction. The group hopes to raise upwards of $750 million for the construction of 75 charter schools serving 40,000 students across the U.S. over the next four years.
Agassi already runs one charter school, the Las Vegas-based Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, which helped inspire this grander project.
“There are 650 children in my school,” Agassi said earlier this year at the French Open. “The satisfaction is only momentary, however. There are still over 1,500 on the waiting list. Even though I am helping 650 kids, I feel like my failures are twice as great, because there are 1,500 kids that I haven’t been able to help.”
The first charter school associated with this project, located about a mile from Temple University in North Philadelphia, is scheduled to open in the fall.
ESPN.com tennis writer Greg Garber recently spoke with Agassi about his commitment to education, as he was “dogged by [Agassi’s] comment [from the French Open] for weeks afterward, wondering if Agassi was being truly honest.”
Agassi’s responses say it all:
I think that I've always tended to revel in my failures more than my successes," Agassi said. "It's what the game taught me. In tennis, you never had to be good. You just had to figure out how to be better than one person. And as a result, you never stop pushing yourself. "When I look at my work off the court, it's never enough. Because you never know when that child you help is going to change the world. That's how it is with these kids. You wouldn't believe the results they get when expectations are high." "They don't fail us, but we can fail them," Agassi said. "So when I look at 1,500 kids on my waiting list, I truly say that I'm failing more kids than I'm helping."
For what it’s worth, Agassi admits that charter schools (as a whole) haven’t proved to be high-performing. That said, he believes that the top 10 percent of charters—the types of schools he’s after—have proved themselves.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.