These are difficult times for K–12 education, with the economy and state budget cuts jeopardizing what were already severely compromised programs. Although active parent communities can help keep some offerings afloat, few have the financial resources to effect change on a larger scale.
Many celebrities, however, include education in their philanthropic activism. A relatively recent newcomer to this arena is former American Idol singer Clay Aiken, who has been unusually active in furthering educational missions. As he explains on his website, "My music career has allowed me to do the same thing I was doing before—work with kids. It has just given me a bigger stage, so I can enact change on a grander scale."
Before Idol, Aiken was pursuing a degree in special education and tutored a boy with autism. After successfully launching his singing career, Aiken quickly formed the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which "serves to bridge the gap that exists between young people with special needs and the world around them" through inclusion and other programs. The foundation has been awarded grants to "create, test and launch a national model for an innovative K–12 Inclusive Service Learning curriculum which teaches social and life skills to children of all abilities while helping to dispel stereotypes and stigmas about disabilities."
From 2006 to 2008, Aiken served on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Since 2004, he has also served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, enabling "all children in the world to obtain a primary education" and helping children who have survived disasters, live in deplorable conditions, and must have education restored quickly. "School provides stability and hope when little else can," Aiken explains on his website. "Just to have someplace safe and meaningful to go can mean so much to children in tragic circumstances."
Through the generosity and activism of celebrities like Clay Aiken, important aspects of and initiatives in education can progress. As our schools continue to struggle with shoestring budgets, assistance from celebrities and others with the wherewithal to effect change and galvanize people into action may increasingly be key to the survival of important educational programs.