Friday, January 1, 2010


This morning I finished reading Andre Agassi's autobiography, 'Open'. I loved every minute of it. It was so inspiring and truly amazing to be taken on the journey through Andre's life. You get such a clear vision of how he came to be the person he is today and the fact that he is so open and candid about every aspect of his life makes me admire him even more. I was particularly touched by a section at the end of the book where he describes the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy , which is an acclaimed school he established for underprivileged kids in his home town of Las Vegas. (He has raised a staggering $85 million for this school so that he can give children the gift of education). I wanted to share his description of the school here, as it resonated so well with my own beliefs about education and empowering children to succeed.

....[The school is] a 26,000 square foot education complex with 500 students and a waiting list of 800. The $40 million campus features everything the kids could want. A high-tech TV production studio. A computer room with dozens of PC's along the walls and a big, white, fluffy couch. A topflight exercise room with machines as fancy as those at the most exclusive clubs in Vegas. There's a weight room, lecture hall, and bathrooms as modern and clean as the one's in the city's finest hotels. Best of all the place is still freshly painted and pristine, just as sparkling as it was on opening day. Students, parents, the neighbourhood, everyone respects the school because everyone owns it.

Everywhere you look are little touches, subtle details that signify this school is different, this place is about excellence, through and through. On the front window is etched one large word, our unofficial school motto: BELIEVE.

The land on which the school sits is narrow, only eight acres, but the lack of space actually suited the architects' overall scheme. They wanted the flow of the campus to symbolize a short, serpentine journey. Like life. Wherever students stand, they can turn one way and see a glimpse of where they've been, or turn the other way and see a hint of where they're headed.

It was the architect's idea to have the buildings teach, to tell stories. We told them the stories we wanted told. In the middle school we wanted enormous photos of Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and, of course, Mandela, with their inspirational words painted on raised glass beneath their portraits. Since most of our students are African American, we asked the architects to embed bricks of marbled glass in one wall, depicting the Big Dipper, and to the right one single brick of glass, representing the North Star. The Big Dipper and the North Star were beacons for runaway slaves, pointing them to freedom.

....In the upper grades, the focus is squarely on college. The kids are told again and again that Agassi Prep is only a stepping stone. Don't get comfortable, we tell them. College is the main goal. Should they happen to forget, reminders are everywhere. College banners line the walls. The main hallway is called College Street. A metal sky bridge between the two main buildings has never been used, and never will be used, until the first seniors receive their diplomas and embark for college in 2009.

Perfect inspiration for the start of a new year...........

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