Ever since leaving the tennis court, Andre has focused on doing something he finds even more rewarding—giving. "Tennis was an opportunity for me to affect people for two hours, you know? But what I care about now is the chance of affecting somebody for a lifetime," Andre says.
In 2001, Andre founded the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a charter school located in an economically challenged area of Las Vegas, his hometown. The state-of-the-art school is equipped with a medical clinic and fitness center, which Andre says is a way of reminding the kids how to care for themselves.
Students at the school must abide by a Code of Respect, and everyone must sign a contract. He says the parents commit to reading to their children each night and sign off on every homework assignment. "This school isn't just about education," Andre says. "It's about self-respect, holding your head up high, taking ownership of your life."
Brandon, a 16-year-old sophomore at the school, and his brother are being raised by a single mom, while his father is in jail. "When [Brandon] started here, he was very quiet," his mom says. "Within about a year, he went the complete opposite direction. I've had teachers call me and say, 'What happened to Brandon?' I am eternally grateful to Andre for what he's done."
Andre cannot wait to watch the first graduating class go to college—and he's building a bridge for graduation day. "As they go across, they're going to unveil where it is they're going to college," Andre says. "And for that moment, every child down there is going to look up and say, 'That's the walk I want to take. I have to make that walk.'"
Andre says The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation has done a lot to help children through the years. "But I realized the best way to impact a child is to educate them, to give them the tools to not only dream but also to reach out and take ownership of those dreams and get them," he says.
President Clinton says he featured Andre's school in Giving, his new book, because charter schools are an issue he has cared about since he worked to create more of them during his presidency. "In the entire county in which Las Vegas is in Nevada, including all the wealthy areas, his school was the only one that received the highest designation in performance from the State of Nevada—in the poorest neighborhood in the state," he says. "I featured him because I wanted people to know that this could be done."
In addition to its achievements, President Clinton says he wanted to show people the school's rules and Code of Conduct. "I think a lot of people have given up on public schools. They don't think this can happen," he says. "[Andre] has proved that if you have the right rules, the right school culture, you can do it."
What would you do if you were handed a bundle of cash—and told you have to give it all away? Challengers on Oprah's Big Give, a new series by Harpo Productions that will air on ABC this spring, have to face that very difficult question.
People from across the country are challenged to help total strangers so that they can feel the high of giving. Over eight weeks, we follow their every move, and in the end, the biggest giver wins!
Andre and his wife, tennis star Steffi Graf, appear as auctioneers for a charity event as part of Oprah's Big Give. "I really enjoyed people reaching out into the community and involving them," Andre says. "We all have a hundred chances a day to make a difference in somebody's lives, but if we actually proactively seek that, you can do some amazing things!"
Watch ABC this spring to see the surprise ending of Oprah's Big Give.
A revolutionary idea has made it possible for anyone to help people in Third World countries via the Internet—and it can be addictive! Visitors to Kiva.org can read the story of someone who needs help starting a small business. For as little as $25, they can choose a loan to partially finance—and help lift someone out of poverty in the process. Kiva's thousands of success stories include a peanut butter stand in Uganda, carpet weavers in Afghanistan and a fruit vendor in Vietnam.
Even if their business partners are halfway around the world, lenders can check on the progress of the venture via e-mail. "You feel as if they're family, and you root for them," says Ann Brown, who lent money through Kiva. "You know their names and they become like these little celebrities in your life."
Financing a loan through Kiva gave Ann the chance to help a small business owner in the same way a lender once helped her. Twenty years ago, Ann was a struggling artist who wanted to start a handbag business—but she couldn't afford to buy the materials.
Then Ann got the lifeline she desperately needed—a small loan to get started. Now that her business is thriving, Ann says she wanted to give back. She visited Kiva.org, and decided to help Martiza, a mother of two living in Ecuador who wanted to start a business. Once the loan is paid back, Ann says she can look for someone else to help. "It feels wonderful," she says. "It's the ultimate shopping experience!"
Matt and Jessica Flannery were newlyweds working in East Africa when they came up with the idea for Kiva. According to Matt, $10 million in loans have been made through the organization—and 99.7 percent of the money has been repaid!
Matt says it takes about 1.5 days for the average entrepreneur to receive funding for a project through the website. "We use PayPal, who provides us free payment processing," he says. "People loan through PayPal through Kiva, and we wire that money directly to the field partner that gives it to the entrepreneur." Learn more about Kiva.org
Jessica says she and Matt were first inspired by seeing entrepreneurs in East Africa doing great things with their families with small amounts of money. "It's their shot. And they just soar. They take it and they run with it," she says. "So to see so many borrowers, to know that that's happening with thousands of individuals because of Kiva, but also to know that other people can be connected and participate in the stories the way that we were."
In 1994, a little girl named Nora appeared on The Oprah Show
with her father, Ted, to talk about her Penny Harvest project. She and other children collected pennies, which added up to $1,000 to help different organizations. "I started thinking, if you could do that, I wonder what I could do?" Oprah says. That question led to the launch of Oprah's Angel Network in 1997, and since then, viewers' generous donations have helped raise over $72 million.
Now, Nora is a senior at Princeton University—and she's still collecting pennies! "We're at $6 million in pennies," she says. "It's now a yearlong educational program, and it's the children themselves that give all the money away—9,000 grants, 20 million hours of service projects." Learn more about Nora's organization, Common Cents, at CommonCents.org
President Clinton continues to give back to the world through the Clinton Global Initiative, a meeting of people who make a commitment to do something specific to help people. He says attendees brainstorm new ideas and then sign up for a project. "This is a meeting for givers, and the whole idea of this is to stop having meetings where we talk about the problems, and start having meetings where we do something about them," he says.
If you'd like to help people but you don't know how, President Clinton says the Internet creates an almost unlimited capacity to get involved. Kiva, for example, gives its visitors an easy way to impact the lives of people around the world, right from their living rooms.
"I think that there are both opportunities and potential givers out there everyplace that haven't been tapped," President Clinton says. "One of the things we know is that intelligence, ability and dreams and the willingness to work hard, they're evenly distributed throughout the world and throughout the neighborhoods of America. But systems, opportunity and investment aren't. So insofar as the rest of us can provide that, that's what we ought to do."
Start making a difference today!
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