“Investing in high-quality, learning-friendly elementary schools is the first step in lifting student achievement nationwide,” tennis legend Andre Agassi said on Tuesday to a crowd of Rocketeers and community members. “This new investment in Nashville will make a difference for thousands of young people, empowering them to continue on to college and realize their full potential.”
Agassi’s remarks followed eager Rocketeers joining together to share their school’s creed (loud and proud, of course) to kick off United Academy’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
“The only way to really create systemic change is to give the necessary tools to our kids to change their own future, to break out of their own circumstances. And that can only be done through education,” he said.
Financing and building high quality facilities is a challenge for public charter schools across the country. Though authorized by local school boards, public charter schools often have to raise their own money for facilities. To help remove that barrier, Agassi, in partnership with Bobby Turner, created the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund to provide resources, development experience and a passion for educational excellence to help top school operators build and renovate buildings. The Charter Schools Facilities Fund turns to investors to raise the significant capital required to build great new facilities in underserved communities. Scaleable change, Turner says, can’t come only from philanthropy.
Turner spent years supporting the addition of 40 high quality public charter schools in Los Angeles through philanthropic donations. While the impact was big, he said, it wasn’t enough. Three times as many kids were on waiting lists as were in the schools he helped to build.
Since 2011, the Facilities Fund has taken a market-driven approach to ensure scaleable change. First the schools rent the buildings, but over time the operators are able to own the facilities. With this model, Turner-Agassi has developed 50 schools serving nearly 23 thousand students, including Rocketship campuses in Milwaukee and Nashville.
Thanks to the fund, United Academy has a newly renovated 37,000-square-foot facility to call home. It includes a gymnasium, learning lab, playground and 19 classrooms with large windows and skylights.
United Academy opened this fall and serves 375 students whose families hail from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, making it Rocketship’s most diverse campus. Enrollment is expected to grow to 550 in the coming years. United Academy is Rocketship’s second school in Nashville; the region now serves nearly one thousand Rocketeers.
“When parents chose the name for the school, I was thrilled because of its significance,”explained Shaka Mitchell, Regional Director of Rocketship Tennessee.
“Our school unites people from different races, countries and religions under the banner of high quality education. There’s no stopping this momentum when parents and community members demand better schools for our kids.”
Reverend Dr. Teddy Chuquimia, a pastor from Nashville’s Hispanic Presbyterian New Church, also spoke at the ribbon cutting.
“My kids wake up everyday at 6 am to be ready for school – to be ready to go to Rocketship,” he said to the crowd of families and supporters.
“We need more schools like this one in Nashville, especially for us minority groups; it’s very very important. Today, I am grateful because I know our kids are in good hands. Amen.”
Kevin works on the Rocketship Network Support Team as the resident Rocketship story-teller. He is the Editor of Beyond. He is a former Special Education teacher in San Jose, with experience teaching in both traditional public and Rocketship schools. He earned a BA in Journalism and Digital Arts from the University of Oregon. A current Bay Area resident, Kevin is passionate about education, story-telling and creative exploration.
About the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund
The Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund is a market-driven real estate investment fund designed to accelerate the growth of high-performing charter schools. The original fund and its successor will develop close to 200 schools by 2020 in high-need areas throughout the United States. Turner-Agassi is a partnership between Turner Impact Capital, LLC and Agassi Ventures, LLC. For more information, please visit www.turneragassi.com.