Russell Wilson and Ciara are starting a tuition-free, public charter school in Des Moines, Washington, Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation announced.
Through the non-profit dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty, the couple will donate $1.75 million to rebrand the existing charter known as Cascade Midway Academy, just south of Seattle.
Cascade’s high school program was set to debut this year until the pandemic forced founders Scott Canfield and Garth Reeves to delay opening. The program needed financial assistance and reached out to the couple for help.
Canfield said the school’s name will be changed to Why Not You Academy in honor of Russell and Ciara’s generosity. The school is set to open in Fall 2021, and “will operate as a tuition-free public high school in full accordance with the Washington state charter school law,” according to a press release.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the couple said the school will focus “on academics, personalized student plans and internships and mentorships for underserved Black and brown students.”
“We’ve always held the belief that life’s successes start with a good education, but recognize that access isn’t always created equally for all," Russell and Ciara said in a press release. "The Why Not You Foundation was created with the concept of empowering youth to lead with a why not you attitude and that’s why it was important for our foundation to partner with Scott, Garth, and Cascade Public Schools to help open doors for kids from less fortunate backgrounds. This school is a longtime dream of ours and it was important for us to find a way to combine traditional classroom learning with community and mentorship-based activities, in order to prepare kids for the real world. Why Not You is based on the idea that it can start with one and our hope is that this school will be the first of many.”
The couple joins a long list of celebrities who have launched schools, and Wilson said it was not a political statement. He pointed towards his foundation’s education philanthropy work instead. Wilson and Ciara have created several youth-focused programs, including the Rwanda Girls Initiative that runs a science and technology-focused boarding school for girls in Africa and Seattle-based Rainier Scholars program, which helps low-income students of color prepare for college.
"We've been so committed over the past four years to education," Wilson said to the AP. "This isn't anything political for us."