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How These 15 Celebrities Are Helping Shape Our Future

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PITBULL
Pitbull opened a school in Miami last year. Here, he performs in concert during the San Antonio Stock Show And Rodeo at the AT&T Center on Feb. 19 in San Antonio, Texas. | Gary Miller via Getty Images

Children in your community may be learning in schools founded by celebrities famous for their work in music or movies.

In recent years, a select group of public figures and celebrities have lent their philanthropic hands to opening schools across the country or abroad. While some, like famed rapper Pitbull, have opened charter schools in their home communities, others, like actress Angelina Jolie, have founded schools in disadvantaged communities overseas.

Some of the celebrity-operated schools have been successful, and some have seen their share of problems. For others, it’s too soon to tell. Of course, you don't need a teaching background to be influential in education.

Here's a list of celebrities who have opened schools in recent years.

  • Pitbull
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    In between producing megahits like "Timber," rapper Pitbull opened a charter school in the fall of 2013. His school, based in Miami, is called the Sports Leadership And Management Academy (SLAM), and it educates children on core subjects with an emphasis on sports and sports management.

    "If sports is what you love, one way or another, it's a business you can get involved with ... whether you're a therapist, an attorney, a broadcaster," the singer said in a 2013 NPR interview. "They're already labeling me 'Mr. Education.'"
  • Jalen Rose
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    In 2011, former NBA player and current sports broadcaster Jalen Rose founded a Detroit-based charter school called the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA). The new school is still evolving, though. After one year, the school hired a completely new staff, adopted a more rigorous curriculum system and lengthened the school day.

    "My goal at JRLA is to provide a private school education in a public school setting so that a student's ZIP code doesn't dictate the education they receive," Rose wrote in a 2013 blog for The Huffington Post. "I am humbled by the opportunity to help further the education of our youth as well as be able to create jobs for my community."
  • Shakira
    Shutterstock
    Latin American sensation Shakira has been an advocate for education causes. Using funds from her nonprofit organization, she has opened eight schools in her native country of Colombia. She has also lobbied Latin American leaders to support early childhood education.

    Her schools -- the most recent was scheduled to open in February 2014 -- serve needy children in disadvantaged communities.

    “I want to demonstrate ... how we can change the lives, not only of the children who come to school, but also their families. Entire communities can be transformed when you have a school that functions properly,” the singer told Billboard.
  • Andre Agassi
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    In 2011, tennis champion Andre Agassi partnered with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors LLC to create the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund. By December 2013, the fund, which is designed to invest in the building of charter schools, had established 23 schools. In 2001, Agassi founded the Las Vegas-based Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.
  • Deion Sanders
    AP
    Former NFL star Deion Sanders founded Prime Prep Academy in Texas in 2012. However, the charter school has already seen its share of challenges. Sanders, a coach for the school, was fired from his job in October 2013 for allegedly assaulting an employee. Although he was quickly rehired, he was fired again in December. Additionally, the Texas Education Agency is currently investigating the school for a number of allegations, including the misuse of funds.

    Prime Prep has been plagued with administrators who don’t have the expertise or experience that it takes to have the institution we want it to be,” Prime Prep Board President T. Christopher Lewis said, according to the Dallas Morning News.
  • Oprah
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    Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007. While the school has suffered from its share of controversy -- a school employee was accused of sexually abusing several students -- it is still up and running. The media mogul has also donated heavily to American charter schools. In 2010, she gave $6 million to charter schools across the country.
  • Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith
    AP
    Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith opened a private elementary school, the New Village Leadership Academy, in 2008. However, the school, which reportedly had ties to the church of Scientology, was closed in 2013.

    Although the school reportedly used teaching methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, school leaders denied that it was anything but secular, according to the Associated Press.

    "We are a secular school, and just like all nonreligious independent schools, faculty and staff do not promote their own religions at school or pass on the beliefs of their particular faith to children," New Village Academy director Jacqueline Olivier told the Los Angeles Times in 2008.
  • Angelina Jolie
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    Notorious humanitarian and actress Angelina Jolie opened an all-girls school in Afghanistan in 2013. The school was funded by proceeds from Jolie's jewelry collection, Style of Jolie. She reportedly hopes to use further proceeds to build more schools in impoverished areas, according to Forbes.
  • Magic Johnson
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    Former NBA star and sports analyst Magic Johnson has opened several alternative high schools for students who have dropped out or are at-risk of dropping out of school. Currently, there are four Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Georgia, two in Illinois, one in New Jersey, one in North Carolina and eight in Ohio.

    According to the Bridgescape Acadmy website, the alternative schools' "student-focused program provides an opportunity to earn a high school diploma at a pace suitable to their schedule, lifestyle and learning needs."
  • Kevin Johnson
    AP
    Before he became the mayor of Sacramento, Calif., this former NBA star founded a charter school network called the St. HOPE Public Schools, which has a center for early childhood education, an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. Johnson is also married to education reform powerhouse Michelle Rhee.
  • Tony Bennett
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    Legendary singer Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in 1999. The performing arts school is one of New York City's few audition-only schools. It's currently located near Bennett's childhood home in Astoria, Queens.

    "We're the opposite of instant fame," Bennett said of the school, according to USA Today. "We want to teach the students quality and to do things that will last forever."
  • Serena Williams
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    In 2008, tennis superstar Serena Williams opened up The Serena Williams Secondary School in Kenya with funds from the Serena Williams Foundation. As explained on the Serena Williams Foundation website, in Kenya, kids have to pay $1 a week to attend school, a sum that is unaffordable for some families. The Serena Williams Secondary School allows kids to attend school for free. Several years later, the athlete opened another school, the Wee Secondary School.
  • Petra Nemcova
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    In 2011, Czech model Petra Nemcova opened a school in earthquake-ravaged Haiti with funds from her Happy Hearts Fund. She built the school after going through the Thailand tsunami of 2004 that took the life of her then-fiance. Nemcova, who only survived the tsunami after clinging to a tree for eight hours, said that during that time, she heard the voices of suffering children.

    "I was not able to help those children," Nemcova told ABC News in 2011. "You heard them screaming for help and after some time you couldn't hear their voices anymore."
  • Madonna
    AP
    In 2013, Madonna opened several community schools in Malawi. According to the Associated Press, her work there provided classrooms for thousands of students who were previously learning outdoors.

    "I love Malawi, I am committed to help end poverty here," she said at the time, according to the outlet.