February 21, 2018

How Celebrities are Making a Difference, One Educational Program at a Time

Contributed by Katia Podtynov

Whether it’s on stage, the field or the screen, celebrities have a way of making us believe in the “magic” they bring into the world. They have the power to bring communities together and inspire passion among populations.

U.S. celebrities have made a name for themselves not only through their respective talents but also in the education sector. There have been many that have helped make a difference in the lives of hundreds and thousands of students around the country and even the world. For example, native Chicagoan Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to the public school system he had called his own. Chance said his contribution was a “call to action” in the hopes of inspiring other companies in Chicago to donate to Chicago Public Schools. Singer/songwriter Taylor Swift also donated a hefty amount of money to public school systems in New York and Louisiana to provide relief and support for their students.

While it’s common for celebrities to donate to causes they care about, it is also becoming the norm to cater to the needs of a beneficiary more directly. For education, this means supporting not schools in general but certain specific programs and initiatives.

Each school and district has students who need something a little different. Celebrities have created foundations that attempt to fill those needs. We’ve rounded up the celebrities who support various areas of education and whose foundations could also help benefit your students.

Providing Tools and Resources

Renowned musical artist and producer Pharrell Williams is passionate about providing tools for students in underprivileged communities to reach their fullest potential. In 2008, Williams founded From One Hand to AnOTHER (FOHTA) which is an organization that provides STEAMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Motivation) related resources to help students reach success. According to FOHTA’s website, the group is “committed to bringing kids experiences that ignite their passions, challenge their minds, and prepare them for success.”

This organization began with school supply giveaways, but has expanded to more. Now, it offers free after school programs as well as a free STEM education summer camp in affiliation with NASA that reaches over 1,250 largely at-risk and low income students. For information on how to contact or partner with this organization, visit FOHTA’s website.

The Eva Longoria Foundation, founded by actress Eva Longoria in 2012, strives to provide resources to empower Latina students to reach great heights. There has been a history of poor educational opportunities as well as economic challenges when it comes to Latina education. Through entrepreneur opportunities, STEM extracurriculars, and mentorship opportunities, this foundation has taken great strides in giving Latina women a higher chance at a successful future. To learn more, visit the foundation’s website.

Arts Education

Award winning actress, Kerry Washington has spent the past 15 years dedicated to promoting arts education around the country. Washington not only serves on the Artist Committee for Americans for the Arts but was also appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As part of this committee, Washington helped form the Turnaround Arts Program which aims to bring arts education programs and supplies to low performing elementary and middle schools across the U.S. A program evaluation found that arts education not only contributed to academic achievement but also to a decrease in disciplinary problems, making it an extremely worthwhile cause to pursue.

Because of her dedication and promotion of arts and arts education, Washington received the Public Leadership in the Arts award in 2009, and continues to support schools through workshops and classroom visits. For more information on Kerry Washington’s work and how to incorporate arts education into your curriculum, visit Turnaround Arts Program’s website.

Additional Education

American professional basketball player Lebron James is a strong proponent of the LeBron James Family Foundation which aims to positively affect the lives of children and young adults through education. One of the foundation’s recent successes is securing the approval for an “I Promise” school in Akron, Ohio. This school will specifically focus on educating students at risk of falling behind. When asked about the school, James emphasized that a school like this was essential in order to provide resources and experts for kids who would normally “fall through the cracks.” As a result, the students can have a “bigger and brighter future,” not only for themselves but also for those around them. For more information on how to take advantage of these opportunities, visit the foundation’s website.

LeBron James also showcased his passion for education by choosing a school-focused organization to receive a $300,000 after he won the All-Stars Basketball game. After-School All-Stars helps support students by offering a wide variety of services, including academic and homework support, health, fitness, nutrition, visual & performing arts, and community service learning. With this donation, even more children can be provided with the resources they need to succeed.

The celebrities above have dedicated their time and resources to bettering the futures of scores of students around the country. Because school systems are facing so many financial difficulties, celebrities and other prominent figures like them have played a significant role in advocating and providing support for educational areas in need.

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