SEATTLE – Football star Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara, the Grammy-winning performer, are the latest wealthy philanthropists to back a charter school — though the celebrity couple say they’re not focused on the politically charged school choice issue and undeterred by challenges that have plagued Washington state’s charter sector.
Through their Why Not You Foundation, Wilson and Ciara are contributing about $1.75 million to rebrand an existing charter program known as Cascade Midway Academy, just south of Seattle. It’s where the couple have their home base because Wilson plays quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks football team.
The Cascade high school program was set to debut this year before the pandemic forced founders Garth Reeves and Scott Canfield to delay opening.
In need of cash, they reached out to Wilson's foundation recently and landed the partnership. Canfield said the superstar couple’s generosity will be honored with the school’s name change to Why Not You Academy but that Wilson and Ciara won’t be involved in the school's day-to-day operations.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Wilson and Ciara said they jumped at the opportunity to help launch the school. It focuses on academics, personalized student plans and internships and mentorships for underserved Black and brown students. The couple said they hope this will be the first of many Why Not You Academy sites across the country.
“I’m really confident...about the team that we have here and how we’re building things out,” Ciara said. “We’re passionate about everything. We’re all in on this.”
The Why Not You Academy is expected to open in fall 2021, just as the deadline to authorize new charter schools is set to expire in the state.
Washington currently has 12 charter schools open with 3,639 students, according to records from the state education department.