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September 21, 2014

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Justin Bieber performs Christmas concert, donates $100,000 to Las Vegas school

Money will be used to help the school’s many poor, homeless students

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Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Pop sensation Justin Bieber presents a $100,000 check to Whitney Elementary School Principal Sherrie Gahn on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011.

Justin Bieber at Whitney Elementary

Kynedi Harris, 10, talks with the media as Jolie Leach, 11, looks on after the private Justin Bieber concert at Whitney Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. Bieber donated $100,000 to the east Las Vegas school, which serves many homeless and low-income students. Launch slideshow »

Pop star performs at elementary school

KSNV coverage of Justin Bieber concert and donation event at Whitney Elementary School, Dec. 16, 2011.

Watch

  • "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" featuring Justin Bieber's concert at Whitney Elementary will air Wednesday, Jan. 4, on KLAS Channel 8.

Map of Whitney

Whitney

5005 Keenan Ave., Las Vegas

Beyond the Sun

More information

  • For information about helping homeless students in the Clark County School District, call the outreach office at 855-6682. Whitney Elementary School can be reached at 799-7790.

Teenage pop sensation Justin Bieber made good on his promise to Whitney Elementary School on Friday.

Last month, the 17-year-old star pledged a special Christmas concert and $100,000 to the east Las Vegas elementary school nationally-renowned for providing its needy students and families with food, clothing, health services and the occasional rent check.

On Friday, Bieber signed the $100,000 personal check after performing hit singles from his new Christmas album, “Under the Mistletoe,” for 650 students in the school’s multipurpose room. To top off the private concert, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” also donated an additional $100,000 in toys — one for every child – for the holidays.

“It was so wonderful and meaningful. He gave them memories no one could ever take away,” said Principal Sherrie Gahn. “They had the best Christmas present.”

Earlier in the day, the pop icon toured the school, popping into classrooms to visit with excited students, Gahn said. He signed autographs, answered students’ questions and shared with them his personal childhood struggles of being raised by a single mother in low-income housing and having to rely on food banks.

“It’s great he made that connection with our students,” Gahn said, tears welling in her eyes. Most of her students are poor, many of them homeless, she added.

Over the years, Whitney has become more than just a school for its 610 students and their families, providing the services and help to its recession-ravaged community. For students, Whitney is a place to receive free haircuts, dental care and eye glasses. It’s where families can get food, clothing and school supplies. It’s where parents can learn to read and get help if they fall behind on their rent.

“These kids are always in crisis and survival mode,” Gahn said. “If I can feed and clothe them, it takes a lot off their plate. … If I didn’t, these kids would be on the street.”

Gahn’s selfless efforts to help her student garnered national publicity from CNN to CBS News. In September, Gahn’s inspirational story caught the attention of the Ellen show, which decided to feature Whitney Elementary in its ninth season premiere.

During a taping for that show, Ellen DeGeneres presented what has become the first of several big donations to Whitney this year: a $100,000 check from Target.

After the Ellen episode aired, hundreds of donations started pouring into the school from across the nation. The outpouring of support overwhelmed Gahn.

“It tells a lot about the human spirit that there are so many people out there who really want to help,” she said. “Since Ellen adopted us … I worry a little less (about providing for students).”

In late October, DeGeneres decided to check in with Whitney during a taping with Bieber. After hearing about all the services Whitney provides its students, Bieber made a surprise announcement: He wanted to match Target’s $100,000 donation and stage a Christmas concert for the kids.

The students were ecstatic, Gahn said. They couldn’t believe Bieber was going to perform at their school, she said.

Word soon got out to generous corporate donors. In the last month, Hewlett Packard pledged to donate $100,000 in new computer equipment for the school. On another episode of the Ellen show, Target stepped up again and announced a $200,000 school library makeover. And individual donations from local businesses such as Snap Towing kept streaming in.

All in all, Whitney has received more than $1 million in the last several months, Gahn estimated. It was an early Christmas gift she said she could never have imagined when she first stepped foot on campus eight years ago.

“It’s very, very surreal,” she said. “This has been phenomenal.”

A few dozen Bieber fans waited patiently outside the school Friday afternoon, waiting eagerly for a glimpse of the famous pop star. Shortly after 2 p.m., Bieber arrived in a black SUV and briefly greeted fans, said Clark County School District spokesman Michael Rodriguez.

By 4 p.m. when the concert ended, the crowd had swelled to more than a hundred parents, teenagers and curious onlookers. Many careened their necks, cameraphones in hand as they waited for Bieber to emerge.

Green Valley High School seniors Raluca Iclodean, 18, and Jori Buckland, 17, heard from a friend about the Bieber concert halfway through the event. They jumped into Iclodean’s car, and he floored the gas pedal.

The self-proclaimed Bieber fans drove 20 minutes from Henderson to the east Las Vegas elementary school just in time to see Bieber driving away in his tinted SUV.

“I just wanted to see him,” said Iclodean, who started listening to the Canadian singer when he was 13. “He’s so beautiful.”

Buckland nodded her head. “It’s a great thing he’s doing, using his fame for positive things.”

Rosie Metlow waited in the cold for her granddaughter Amber, a Whitney kindergartner who was also celebrating her sixth birthday on Friday. In anticipation for Friday’s concert, Amber has been listening to Bieber’s songs seemingly nonstop, she said.

“She was so happy,” Metlow said, beaming. “It’s the biggest birthday present she got.”

Ticia Ledwon — who was waiting next to Metlow for her 6-year-old daughter Autumn — was thankful for all the donations the school has received this year.

“How could we ever repay someone for this?” she asked. “Justin Bieber donated his time so (students) can get to see him in person. So many people could have just written a check. It makes me cry.”

After the concert, hundreds of smiling students began streaming out of the school, large boxes of toys in tow. Kynedi Harris, 10, wearing a sparkly Bieber T-shirt, gave a big smile to her mother as she walked out of the school.

“He actually came through for us,” Harris said. “He gave us money and presents. He’s a helpful and sweet guy.”

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  1. WOW! What a guy! I'm happy for the school and the students who will benefit from Mr. Bieber's kindness. A refreshing story about a one in a million celebrity doing something positive in a community far from where he lives. It's also great to see a positive story splashed on the front page of the LV Sun. Good Job!!

    That's what BOMAC thinks!

  2. Doing something worth something, good job!!!!!!

  3. Ya have to give it up for the Beibs...

    da kid is alright.

  4. This is awesome!

  5. It's good when we can get these Canadians to rip off a big check forda kids man! Celine herself, is the only one keeping the lights on at Lake LV!

  6. Very Talented, Giving and Informed Young Adult. When he saw what one of his American members of his band was experiencing with our health care system, he called the American Health Care system "Evil".
    When he was Poor at least his single mother did not have to worry about Health Care in Canada.

  7. Great story, great kid.

  8. May we all learn that generousity is contagious and can make the giver as happy and blessed as the receiver.

    This lesson came home for me, after a wonderful classroom party, my dear students & parents, "gifted" me the leftover holiday cupcakes and 2 dozen donuts, despite my gentle protests wanting to send these leftovers home.

    As I finished this exciting day at school, I loaded up my car, and while on my way home, stopped at the local WalMart grocery store, parked next to a tiny car, backseat filled with 5 tiny Pre-K tots, with a destitute looking dad sitting at the wheel waiting on his partner who was in the store. It was really obvious to me that these folks have little in life other than themselves, so I pulled out the bags of festive treats, knocked on his car window, and asked if he would like the goodies for him and the children. This man was overwhelmed, began crying, thanking me profusely, and the tots were wild with joy. My heart was filled with appreciation on all levels and this experience will serve to remind me about the real meaning of the season, that of giving and receiving.

    We all can do what we can. It is terrific that entertainers, business people, civil servants, and everyday people are all doing what they can during a time of year when those without are feeling it the worst. God Bless you all!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  9. That's a great story, Star. Thank you.

    Look at the face on Justin, he's just beaming (as is the principal holding the check). You can tell he's really happy to help.

  10. I've never considered myself a fan of his, really don't know much about him.
    That being said, I really respect him for doing his part to make life better for others. He seems like a really decent guy. Justin has worked hard to get where he is, and continues to work hard to do good for others.
    It's so nice to see an article about a celebrity who is doing good and has respect for others. Many other celebrities who are older than him could learn from his example.
    Keep up the good work, J.B. Count me in as a fan!