Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | 11:58 a.m.
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Tennis champion and Las Vegas resident Andre Agassi had two reasons to be smiling, and neither had to do with the sport he was king of for so many years! He gave the commencement address as the first senior class of his College Preparatory Academy graduated, and no less than President Obama surprised him and the 34 students with a special congratulations letter to mark the milestone since Andre first opened the charter school eight years ago.
All 34 graduates will be going on to higher education opportunities, with 26 of them attending four-year colleges and universities and eight attending two-year programs. More than 1,000 family members, classmates, teachers, community members, elected officials and VIP supporters and donors attended.
Andre opened Agassi Prep, as the school is affectionately called, in 2001 with third to fifth grades and expanded each year to its current K-12 status with nearly 600 students. The school came about because of Andre’s belief that nothing has a greater impact on children’s lives than the education they receive.
“Early on, we concluded that the best way to change a child’s life was through education,” said our hometown hero, whose Andre Agassi Foundation and school are dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged children from low-income areas in his hometown.
“Our graduates have received a comprehensive education and values from our Code of Respect and Commitment to Excellence instilled in them since day one that will serve them well into the future,” Andre said. “To have 100 percent of your seniors graduating is very exciting. Not one high school dropout! They go forward prepared to reach for their dreams and to make the world a better, more peaceful place. I know they will succeed.”
In his speech to his graduating class, Andre said: “Miracle is a word only to be used for a most special occasion. We’re too quick these days to pronounce this or that rare event a miracle. Especially in sports, we call a comeback by our favorite player or team a miracle. We talk about miracle cures. We call shopping centers Miracle Miles. We’ve even got a fertilizer called Miracle-Gro. But this today is a true, genuine, bona-fide miracle. Las Vegas -- and the world -- has never seen anything like this. A decade ago, this spot was nothing, a sun-baked square of barren desert with hot wind. Back then, there were a shamefully low number of students who graduated to high school. Today, every single senior at this high schools gets a diploma, and that is a true miracle.”
Then it was time for Andre to be surprised. His prep school’s chancellor, Marsha Irvin, who had met President Obama on his recent visit to Las Vegas, had been aware of the school and talked with her about Andre’s work for it. So Marsha produced a White House letter for him, and she read it to the assembled dignitaries:
“Our country needs more young people who serve as examples of academic achievement born of hard work and dedication. This moment in history is one of high demands, lofty expectations with great possibilities for each of you. Please accept my best wishes as you go out into a world that is counting on you to build a better tomorrow for us all.
“Each of the challenges we face as a nation calls for an America that is more purposeful and more united, an America that is not just about each of us but all of us. I hope you will take up these challenges and make them your own. Your generation will be tested in this new century. If we are willing to shoulder each other’s burdens, take risks and persevere through trial, America will continue its journey toward mutual understanding and shared success.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.
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