Fall is in the air, and as we move further into October parents and children are finally settled into their school routines. It’s also a busy time for teachers, who have shown up reinvigorated for teaching and learning. But outside of lesson plans, decorated classrooms and the energy spent forming connections, there are others putting forth their best efforts so that students from all walks of life might receive their best education. From building schools and funding individual journeys, to creating supplemental programs that usher many along their paths and tackling education policy, here are a haute few making major moves in education.
Business and entertainment powerhouse Rihanna recently wrote an op-ed article in the Guardian expressing her commitment to global education. She urged that the magnitude of this lack of access for children around the world shouldn’t warrant despair and surrender. Instead, we need to take on as much of the challenge as we can manage to set an example and see the difference.
“This is what has driven me to prioritise global education in my philanthropy and advocacy work,” she told The Guardian. “The notion that millions of children are desperate to go to school and are not given the opportunity is something I cannot accept.” Fenty’s Clara Lionel Foundation; founded in 2012, was inspired by a trip to Malawi to help in the support of thousands of girls moving through secondary school. Many champion Gandhi’s famous words “Be the change you want to see in the world,” but Rihanna is the living and breathing definition.
The same can also be said for NBA All Star Lebron James. This summer the three-time NBA champion opened the I Promise public school in his native Akron, Ohio for at-risk students. This mission stems from personal experience; as a former at-risk student himself James understood the life variables that can affect a child’s academic career and created an environment not only sensitive to them but that addressed them head on, from transportation to peer support and family resources. Quiet as kept, The Lebron James Family Foundation has been doing this work for years. Since 2011 his IPROMISE initiative has been selecting elementary school students who have fallen behind and keeping them on track through high school.
Interventions of this nature are an easy lay-up to organizations like Kevin Hart’s Help From the Hart Charity and Percy “Master P” Miller’s Team Hope NOLA. Through fundraising and strategic partnerships, both entities have provided much needed scholarship monies to students demonstrating need. Miller’s Team Hope hosted its second celebrity basketball game this summer which raised money for school supplies and scholarships to benefit the youth of New Orleans. Similarly, just last month and off the heels of a $100,000 scholarship gift to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in 2015, Hart’s charity teamed up with the scholarship fund again along with KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) public schools to grant an additional $600,000 in scholarships to 18 KIPP students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Also passionate about education and the legacy of HBCU’s is arguably the biggest star in the world, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Back in April and under the umbrella of her BeyGOOD initiative, she announced the Homecoming Scholars Award Program, which presented $25,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year to one winner each from four chosen HBCUs— Xavier University of Louisiana, Wilberforce University, Tuskegee University and Bethune-Cookman University. But she’s also passionate about a special demographic—women. As co-founder with Salma Hayek-Pinault of Gucci’s Chime for Change campaign she’s been making strides in education and the fight for gender equality since 2013. Last year she established the Formation Scholars awards for a select group of dynamic young women from four selected colleges. This year she broadened her reach with the OTR II scholarship program, awarding $100,000 each to 11 male and female scholars along the US stops for her international tour of the same name.
Still, while singular scholarships go a long way, what about the future of education at-large? Not every exceptional student is fortunate enough to receive celebrity scholarship dollars. Further, all students should be afforded the opportunity to reach their unique potential. Actress Eva Longoria’s eponymous foundation worked with UCLA’s Civil Rights Project to pinpoint the components necessary for Latinas’ to thrive in school. They then used that information to create targeted programs that alleviate the stresses that hinder them. In 2007, multi-talented recording artist and EGOT John Legend began the Show Me Campaign. This organization works with programs like Teach for America, Harlem Village Academies, New Profit and Teach for All, for which Legend is a Global Ambassador. The Show Me Campaign seeks to elevate teachers and eradicate the school-to-prison pipeline.
Finding creative ways to affect change in education in the realms of teaching, advocacy and policy-making levels the playing field for all children, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities. Last year Chancelor Bennett, aka Chance the Rapper put his money where his mouth is and raised over 3 million dollars for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in addition to meeting with Governor Bruce Rauner to express among other things, a diminished public school budget. Last year he held a summit through SocialWorks; his charity for the empowerment of Chicago youth, in order to convene with educators and parents on their efforts to support CPS. Robert Reffkin; a businessman with Berkeley, California roots, has also committed to improving the education landscape. While running Compass, an agency that marries tech and real estate, he co-founded America Needs You, an organization that bolsters first-generation college students with career development, mentorship and networking opportunities and other comprehensive support.
We salute these dedicated individuals, their staffs, and the many others who work under the radar to make advancements in education and secure a brighter future for us all!