Oprah Donates $5M to Ron Clark Academy to Help Launch Performing Arts Center

Oprah Winfrey further solidified her relationship with Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy with a $5 million donation. The former talk show host announced the hefty gift Friday, Nov. 3 during the school’s 10th-anniversary celebration and the namesake co-founder fell on his back after hearing the news.

“$5 million!” Winfrey repeated to an eager crowd.

Her donation will go toward funding a performing arts center, according to Fox 5. The school has raised $7 million so far to make that happen.

“It is the most inspiring and dynamic school I have ever encountered and that includes my own,” Winfrey told 11Alive of the non-profit middle school. “I had Ron come to South Africa with his kids and his team to inspire my school.”

Winfrey met Clark in 2001 after he was named the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Disney’s American Teacher Awards. She welcomed him onto “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the two forged a friendship that’s lasted nearly two decades. Along the way, Winfrey encouraged him to take his 55 essential rules and write a book. Clark’s “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child” became a New York Times best-seller.

Winfrey has since supported Clark and his academy, co-founded by Kim Bearden in 2007, with a $365,000 gift in 2008. She also spoke at the school’s 2010 graduation.

“When you have passion and you have energy, it kind of spreads,” Clark said of the academy, according to Fox 5. “And so this school is kinda about digging deep, having energy and trying to uplift others. And when you seek to uplift others, you uplift yourself as well.”

Friday night’s ceremony raised $12.3 million, which will help in the school’s $15 million campaign to train 45 educators, according to 11Alive. The fundraiser falls in line with the school’s mission to “improve student engagement, increase academic rigor and create a school climate and culture that leads to success for all learners.” In addition, Atlanta Mayor Kassim Reed authorized $20,000 from the City of Atlanta toward RCA.