YES (Prep) We Can!

Oprah couldn't say no to gifting Houston school $1 million

Oprah couldn't say no to gifting Houston school $1 million

She might be God to the middle-aged female contingent of your family. And her book club may catapult mere mortals from fraudulent to famous.

In fact, say what you will about the woman. But that Oprah still makes dreams come true.

And now she's done it in your backyard.

Today, Oprah donned her fairy godmother gown and touched her well-funded magic wand to Houston's YES Prep Public Schools, a public, open-enrollment charter school system serving low-income students across eight schools in our area.

For an exclusive, education-focused episode, which aired Monday afternoon at 4 p.m., Oprah extended an invitation to YES Prep CEO Chris Barbic and alum-cum-teacher Melanie Singleton, in recognition of the school system's excellence.

But she didn't stop with handshakes and goody bags.

Oprah went all Publishers'-Clearing-House-Prize-Patrol-style on the unwitting YES Prep duo.

It just so happened that there was a big ol' check from her ubiquitous Angel Network with YES Prep's name on it. For a whopping — hold onto your pencil boxes — $1 million.


"We had no clue," CEO Chris Barbic said of the hefty chunk of change award. "We knew the show was about education reform, and that it was framed around Waiting for Superman."

A movie from Davis Guggenheim, acclaimed director of An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman zeroes in on the current state of public education in the U.S. "We're hoping the film moves the education conversation forward the way An Inconvenient Truth did for the environment," Barbic told CultureMap.

YES Prep expected to be a key player in the Oprah banter, but what came next wasn't in their wildest dreams.

"It was a total surprise, and a great light to shine on the program," said Barbic. "It's great to be put out there as a national example."

So what'll YES Prep do with all that loot? "We want to use the money to continue to grow," Barbic said. "We'd like to increase from eight to 13 schools, and serve 10,000 kids."

It looks like Oprah has magically turned those wishes into reality.

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Oprah didn't hesitate to reward a Houston school with $1 million to help inner city kids.
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There's nothing no-go about Houston's YES Prep Public Schools.
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