For someone who was home-schooled for a number of years, it’s interesting that singer and six-time Grammy award winner John Legend spends what spare time he has reforming America’s public schools. He is especially devoted to Deborah Kenny’s Harlem Village Academies, a group of three charter schools in Harlem, New York.
Like many celebrities these days, Legend wants to — and does — leverage his success for a worthwhile cause. His introduction to education reform came from retired Giants running back Tiki Barber, who is a Harlem Village Academy board member. Ever since Legend met Kenny and visited one her schools, he was hooked.
“I was inspired by the success,” Legend says. “It’s very attractive to deal with schools that are defying the odds and succeeding, and I wanted to see what I could do to create an environment where more of this can happen.”
Legend now co-chairs the school’s board with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch who made a surprise donation of $5.5 million to the school last year. While Legend’s and Murdoch’s beliefs might fall on different ends of the political spectrum, their co-chairing shows that educational issues can extend beyond politics and that education shouldn’t be a political matter.
Both Legend and Kenny believe that the way to break the cycle of poverty is through a quality education — and access to it. Kenny’s schools, which educate more than 700 children, focus on teaching and teachers. Kenny thinks teachers are the key to school reform and developing successful students.