- Andre's Personal Blog
Andre's Personal Blog
2012. It’s A Wrap.
Posted 24th December 2012
I’ve noticed a few things with each year that passes. Life requires an ever deeper intensity from us, the highs and lows of life seem to be more extreme and most of all, it all comes and goes so very fast. I thought I would use this space to give a few of my own takeaways from this year, and to share my hopes for 2013.
How quickly this year has gone. My children are growing at an exciting but unsettling pace. Weren’t they just five years old and three? Now they’re on the cusp of becoming young adults. In no time, they’re off to college and beyond. All the markers that I use to measure time make me feel like we’re not just pointed toward the future; we’re rushing headlong into it. Our Foundation turns 19 next year and in 2013 Agassi Prep will celebrate our 12th year in Las Vegas. Moving that first shovel of dirt for our school campus seems like yesterday…not a lifetime ago. Slow down, embrace life, treasure the moment.
The faster life seems to come at us; it reinforces to me how much we need to make each day count for something. To know that we’re portioning our time in ways that reflect our deepest values. It may be calling someone to celebrate a milestone in their life, being personally involved in the life of someone who is ill, or making time for a meaningful conversation to let someone know that they are understood in a challenging time. How easy it is to overlook these things when we have so many responsibilities, deadlines and hourly pressures.
The last weeks and days of the year always seem to intensify our emotions, and remind us, for better or worse, the things we’ve been through. Our joys and our disappointments always feel more exposed and pronounced during the holidays. So hold on tight to the people you love and the things you believe in and know are true. These are the anchors in our lives that we can always rely on, and they’ll sustain us everyday throughout the year.
We’re just about to come out of the starting gate of a new year, and I believe if we choose well, in our attitude, in our priorities and in our use of time…that we can find a deeper peace, create a bigger impact and make a more profound mark on the coming year. Here’s to believing that our best years, and the best of life, is ahead.
Happy New Year, and c’mon 2013.
It Looks Like War and Peace, But It’s a Blog.
Posted 3rd October 2012
It’s been too long since I’ve been by to recap our work for you. That’s not because big things haven’t been happening; actually just the opposite. As the pace of life steams along, you have to remind yourself to slow down and breathe in the enormity of all the good things being done. Hopefully as you read about our past and present work, you’ll be as excited as I am. The word that most comes to mind is ‘progress.’ Progress on every front, from our Foundation and school, to several other projects that sit high on my list of priorities.
Agassi Prep is back in full swing again. Its halls are bustling with almost twice the number of students than just a couple of years ago. Our teachers and staff spent their summer preparing for the 2012/13 school year. As I walk the halls, pop into classrooms and talk to our kids, there is clearly a fresh passion to learn and a renewed excitement among students and parents to make this our best year yet.
The sports programs at the school are busy competing across many age groups and levels. Our cheerleading squad is working hard to be able to compete at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this year. We hope they have the chance to go and represent the spirit of Agassi Prep.
This summer was our second opportunity to give our seniors some special access to the world of higher education. The transition from high school to college or university is an intimidating one. For students, it is full of unknowns and in some cases it is their first time away from home for an extended period. Succeeding in college is so vital to our mission that we built it into our name, so we begin the process of building a child’s anticipation for college early on. We intensify that expectation throughout their junior high and high school years. In their senior year, we pull out all the stops to make sure that each student has an array of college choices, using our immense resources of information and connections. One centerpiece of their preparation is a program called ‘Summer of a Lifetime’ (SOAL). For four weeks over the summer, seniors live on college campuses and take college courses. By living in the dorm and experiencing college culture first hand, they have a great advantage when they walk through the door on their first official day in the fall. We now have about eight or nine colleges and universities working closely with us, and we’ll work to increase that number each year. This summer, two of our students were even able to visit Oxford for four weeks. Imagine entering higher education with that experience under your belt.
Separate from the Foundation, I’ve been working on some personal and business projects that are now a growing into reality. Working alongside Canyon Capital, a successful venture capital firm in Southern California, we have been raising private finances from individuals and corporations alike to build charter school facilities for inner city children. We know from statistics that not many charter schools get it right, in spite of the best intentions. We also know from our experience with Agassi Prep that you can make a profound difference in a child’s life when you give them a great education. Those lessons have given me the impetus to partner with only the highest performing charter organizations and to help construct ‘purpose built’ facilities for them. Building a great facility is the biggest challenge that stumps even the best of organizations. Our goal is to build or renovate seventy-five school facilities in challenged neighborhoods across America that will seat over forty thousand students. Hopefully that will just be phase one!
Also, it is satisfying to be working alongside my friend, mentor and trainer, Gil Reyes. We’re working on a project we’ve dreamed about for decades. Every piece of equipment that I trained on during my tennis career was custom made, and hand built by Gil. We’re in the process of making them available to not only a growing number of pro athletes, but those interested in fitness, amateur and pro, around the world. We call it BILT by Agassi & Reyes, and these one-of-a-kind machines are headed to fitness centers, universities and homes everywhere. Even the military is taking a look at our equipment. It does my heart good to see Gil smile from ear to ear as he demonstrates his creations.
Check back soon, and thanks for being such a good friend to the Agassi Foundation.
Posted 23rd April 2012
Every year at this time, we feel a heightened sense of anticipation and celebration at the Foundation because we are racing to graduation. Our work each year is to educate and equip our students to thrive on any college or university campus.
Our 2012 Agassi Prep senior class is deep into the process of applying for colleges and universities. Our teachers and staff work diligently with each individual senior to guide them through the process. The seniors have completed nearly 200 applications with more in progress, and the acceptance letters are arriving daily. The universities on the list are awe inspiring.
I've watched many of these children grow through the years, from shy youngsters adjusting to their new school environment, to confident young adults ready to graduate. I feel grateful and inspired when I think of them walking the halls at St John's, Cornell, Xavier or Marquette. I’m thankful for all of you that continue to help make this happen.
Our students have had many unexpected treats this year. At Agassi Prep, you never really know who's going to pop in. Last month, the Canadian Tenors were in Las Vegas to perform and they volunteered to visit and serenade the students. It was unforgettable.
At our upcoming graduation on June 9th, I'm proud that Elaine Wynn will be giving the commencement address. What better send off for our seniors than to have her words of wisdom fresh in their minds? Thank you Elaine.
Extraordinary things happen often with our Foundation and Agassi Prep. But we don't take them for granted; they keep us feeling humbled and honored to serve our students.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Posted 16th January 2012
Stefanie and I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year. We hit the ground running in our efforts to give young people hope and a brighter future through education.
As we look back, this has been an exceptional and exciting time here at the Agassi Foundation for Education. At our recent Grand Slam for Children on October 29th, people came from Las Vegas and around the world to be entertained by the world's greatest talent and to celebrate the thousands of young lives that have been transformed throughout our 16 Grand Slam events.
The generosity on display that evening was breathtaking and humbling. The results of the monumental night give us the confidence that Agassi Prep will continue to thrive far into the future. Looking forward, with your continued support, our mission to provide a world class education for children in need will also continue to grow and thrive.
Our school, Agassi Prep, almost doubled our enrollment this year, and enrolled more kids off the waiting list and into our classrooms. And with our trips to the State Capitol we were able to create new laws that allowed us to provide a preference to enroll only the neediest students whose families live close to our campus.
Our mission is to spark education reform in all of America, but we believe that the needs are greatest for those living in distress and poverty. The Agassi Foundation will continue to use our growing platform and resources to advocate for underprivileged children in Las Vegas and across the country. With you alongside us, standing shoulder to shoulder, we will be relentless in our work for under served children, in 2012 and beyond.
It's The People
Posted 5th August 2011
What a July for my family and me. This year a caravan of friends and family headed east to Newport, Rhode Island to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. It seems that half the tennis world got the memo too. It was a whirlwind of official lunches, informal dinners, lots of mingling with the tennis community, interviews, and some overdue catching up with long time friends. All leading up to the actual induction ceremony, which was a life altering experience.
The Hall of Fame ceremony deserves it's high decorum and tradition, all of which I felt honored to be part of, but spending time with the people, sharing stories, exchanging experiences, that is what made it so beautiful for me. All my former coaches were there, and they revived a string of memories, from being a teenager to becoming the old man of tennis. I am so proud of Simone Ruffin, one of the first graduating seniors from Agassi Prep, who introduced me. Her poise and bubbly spirit never gave away the fact that she was being seen on international television. I was nothing but smiles when they surprised me by having A J Green, also one of our graduates, sing the National Anthem. Also what an honor to go into the hall with my fellow inductee, Peachy Kellmeyer, who has been a behind the scenes champion for women's tennis for decades. The year of me and Peachy, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It was a surreal weekend with lots of laughs, like watching the venerable Bud Collins, racing around town on a scooter, to the intimate times, huddling with my closest circle of friends late at night, every night at the hotel, trying to get our arms around moments like these in life.
I look back now and ask, what is it that makes an experience have lasting meaning? What do we really need to make us feel fulfilled? What life force do we draw on, when we need to push through a challenge? I find, it is always the people that make a thing special, it's 'our people' that empower us.
Our greatest investment, is to build, layer upon layer, trust, loyalty, memories, counsel, and laughter with the ones we love.
Posted 16th May 2011
I’m looking at the calendar for the next few weeks and I thought I’d give you all an update and share a few thoughts.
This year, I think Memorial Day has a special significance. Let’s remember and celebrate the bravery of all who have protected our freedom through the years.
Our personal calendar has our family hitting the road at the end of this month for some great events in Europe. I will join our Foundation’s fantastic partner, Longines, for an appearance at the French Open on June 4th. Then it’s on to Prague, where Stefanie and I will dust off our rackets for a mixed doubles match on the 7th. I’ll let her do all the running.
One other milestone is racing toward us. The third senior class at Agassi Prep will graduate on June 11th. Wow, our roots grow deeper and so many lives are touched each year. This year we are so fortunate to have Billie Jean King give our commencement address, I know it will be something that our students will never forget. I’m so proud of our teachers, staff and students for embracing such high standards. You make us proud.
Posted 23rd March 2011
The debate over education reform in America comes in many shapes and sizes. In some places it is deafening, and looks more like a public brawl. But real reform is already happening, quietly, and with little fanfare. Those making great progress in reform may not always make headlines, but they deserve our recognition. Alma Powell, Colin Powell's wife, is the Chair of America's Promise Alliance, they work with over four hundred national affiliates to improve education and lower the high school dropout rate. The respected Fordham Institute in Ohio is continually doing groundbreaking research with national implications.
Reform is multifaceted, with many voices in the conversation, but it does not always have to be adversarial. Wendy Kopp, and Teach For America, works closely with school districts and charter schools, providing them with talented instructors from America's top learning institutions. The Gates Foundation has partnered with the teachers unions and has recruited thousands of schoolteachers as volunteers for a multi year study. The preliminary results are shedding new light on the issues of teacher training and accountability. Reform will not happen unless we work together.
But let me tell you who deserves our highest recognition and appreciation. It is the hard working, talented, effective teachers in our classrooms across America. One great teacher can shape thousands of young lives over the course of a career. We should all say a collective thank you to teachers that care for and empower our children. I'm thankful for those who have made our children's success, their life's work. I'm thankful for teachers who are true role models for our children, for those that do more than teach, they inspire. Maybe as we all pursue education reform vigorously, we should take a breath, pause, and say thank you to the unsung heroes and the shining lights in the classroom.
This is what we need to keep in mind as we talk about reform. A broken system victimizes great teachers as well as our children. Our system, as it exists, does not reward a successful teacher any differently than an under performing one. It treats the home run hitter the same as the strike out king. We need to create the tools to identify and celebrate the best teachers. Accountability is not an unwelcome word to an over performing teacher, especially if it leads to better tools and higher compensation.
Let’s continue the research and the debates. Let’s continue to advocate for systemic changes and face the hard realities. Let’s confront the truth about education in America even if it stings. But let’s not lump all teachers into one group, let's not judge them by their worst and let's not view them all through the same lens. Doing so is disrespectful to the teachers that are thriving and giving their best for our kids, day in and day out.
Agassi All Stars
Posted 18th March 2011
When you have a basketball team named after you, you really want them to do well. The high school basketball team at Agassi Prep just wrapped up a great season, winning the state championship and having our head coach William Hopkins named Coach of the Year. The players and coaching staff worked so hard all year to compete at the highest levels and represent Agassi Prep with dignity and character.
To celebrate the team’s winning season, a huge parade was held today with our famed drum line leading the team from the elementary school all the way to the gymnasium, with the rest of the six hundred and fifty students and our cheerleaders cheering them on. What a great accomplishment for our hard working players, it is a memory they will keep with them for life.
To close the ceremony, I spoke to the players about their season. I told them that I celebrated their great wins, but more so, that I was proud of how they managed themselves and how they controlled what they could control. Those are the lessons that they can rely upon as they build their future lives.
Also one other thing we’re happy about at Agassi Prep. The Clark County Commission has declared February 26th 2011, Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy Public Appreciation Day.
Oh That's Right, I'm Retired
Posted 17th February 2011
I like being busy and I like it even more when tomorrow plays out different from today. Change and variety in my schedule is refreshing, as long as I stay on track and each day is a step forward toward my goals.
Here's a quick glimpse at the next two weeks. I'm off to Washington DC to help get our children off the couch and outside, being active. Stefanie and I are filming a Public Service Announcement with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to encourage kids to get in shape.
Next, I'm off to Philly to speak at one of America's finest business school, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I'll be interviewed on stage by my friend Bobby Turner, and I plan to talk about the future for high performing charter schools and how we can create more of them in the near term. After that, hello Baltimore, and the Cal Ripkin Sr. Foundation. Cal Jr. is a good friend that is doing great work helping children, especially in the inner cities. Cal and I joined with some other well-known athletes to found Athletes For Hope, which you can read about online. I'll be receiving an award at Cal's event but my true goal is to help him raise funds for his work.
I end the month in my favorite big city, New York. Time to brush off my racket again and hit Madison Square Garden on the 28th for another face-off with Pete Sampras. We've been at this for a long time.
That's my update. I'll be chiming in now and then on Facebook as the month unfolds. I hope your all well, and please check back in, things move fast around here.
Expanding Our Reach
Posted 19th January 2011
Here we are heading full steam into 2011, and as I think about the coming year one word keeps stirring in my thoughts; opportunity. Our ability to improve children’s lives, and our influence in bringing reform to education in America is going to grow this year.
We’ve started the year with several significant opportunities to effect change in Education. First, I’ve met with Nevada’s incoming governor, Brian Sandoval. Together we talked about how vital it is that every child in Nevada has access to a great education and successfully reaches graduation. I stressed that the achievement gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged will only be closed if we have the courage to create real reform. It is morally the right thing to
do, and on a practical level, it is the right thing for the future of our state.
I've also had the pleasure of meeting with the new Superintendent of the Clark County School District, which is by the way, the fifth largest in the nation. Dwight Jones brings a reputation of innovation and reform. Working alongside the new governor, this is our best chance for real systemic change for education. It can't come soon enough.
Our next great opportunity to effect change is on the national level. Arne Duncan, the administration’s reform minded head of the Department of Education, has named our own Francisco Aguilar to the national board of the ‘Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education’ (FIPSE) in Washington DC. A board filled with extremely talented and influential members from Universities and Institutes from around the country. ‘Cisco’ has been with the Agassi Foundation for three years and we’re proud he will be serving our country, contributing his enormous abilities and representing our principles of reform on a national level.
Also, I’ve personally been spending more and more time working closely with businesses and the private sector, mapping out the role they can play in bringing better education to those living in poverty. I’ve been meeting with CEO’s, directors, financial institutions, inner city mayors and many others to harness their resources to build new charter schools where they’re needed the most.
So if I’m not umpiring a little league game, or in some corner of the globe trying to raise funds for our Foundation, I’m most likely in a boardroom somewhere in America advocating for the next generation. It’s going to be an exciting year!