Tennis great Andre Agassi reached the top of his sport as a professional athlete. But he is quick to say that his life’s work lies not in sport, but in education reform. He has committed himself to using every lesson learned on and off the court to make a difference in children’s lives. “At a low point in my career, I figured out what mattered most,” he says. “I was here to care for children and give a voice to those whose voices are rarely heard.” The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, in partnership with the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in 2001. The public charter school is seen as a model school; its first graduating class boasted a 100 percent college acceptance rate. And as Andre told graduates at their commencement in 2009, it’s never too late for humans to be inspired and to start a new chapter—which is what he has done time and time again to change the course of his life and the lives of others.
After turning pro at the age of 16 and reaching the semi-finals of the French Open and U.S. Open as a teenager, Andre rose to international fame. He earned 60 men’s singles titles, including eight Grand Slam singles championships, and he is the only male player ever to win all four Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold singles medal and the ATP Tour World Championships. He was also a member of three winning Davis Cup teams. Andre, one of the game’s most charismatic players, helped revive the sport in the 1990s and inspired a generation of tennis players. After earning the sport’s top world ranking, his position fell to 141, and using the drive and focus he exhibits in all his philanthropic efforts today, Andre fought his way back to No. 1. He retired in 2006.
Andre’s foundation aims to reform public education for underserved youth in America. Although he sacrificed his own education for success on the court, Andre has always seen education as the key to opportunity, success and freedom. He passionately believes in children and believes that we can do better in our efforts to educate them. “Each of us—parents, advocates, educators and legislators—has a responsibility to help children fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams,” he says. When Andre was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011, he recounted a story of his one brief meeting with Nelson Mandela, arguably one of the most influential people in his life. He urged Andre, during his time on Earth, to be careful in his decisions, his words and his relationships—something Andre admits he hadn’t always done. “Mandela said to me, ‘There is difficulty in all human journeys, but there is nobility in just being a journeyer.’ From him I learned that every journey is epic; every journey is important; every journey beings today.”