Music

Inside Kanye West’s mysterious Donda Academy school

Kanye West famously broke out as a backpacker rapper with three education-themed albums: 2004’s “The College Dropout,” 2005’s “Late Registration” and 2007’s “Graduation.”

And the 45-year-old hip-hop titan is now looking to school a young generation of future stars, moguls and leaders at his mysterious new Donda Academy in Simi Valley, California. It’s a private Christian prep school named after West’s late mother Donda, who was a professor. (She also inspired the titles of her son’s last two albums, 2021’s “Donda” and 2022’s “Donda 2.”)

According to the school’s website, the mission of Donda Academy, which opened in late August, is “to provide the youth with the passion, purpose and spiritual foundations they need to thrive in tomorrow’s world.”

The daily schedule for the students ranging from pre-K to 12th grade includes full school worship; core classes of language arts, math and science; and enrichment courses including language, visual art, film, choir and parkour. Meanwhile, the black uniforms consisted entirely of West’s designs for Yeezy and Gap. (Although Ye announced that yesterday he was terminating the Gap deal.)

Kanye West
Kanye West’s new private school, Donda Academy, has about 100 students in pre-K through 12th grade.
Getty Images for Universal Music

The $15,000-per-year school — with about half of the students getting financial assistance or scholarships — boasts celebrity guests (Boston Celtics black star Jaylen Brown) as well as students (R&B singer Keyshia Cole’s son Daniel), smaller class sizes, and insider connections to West’s music (such as his Sunday Service choir) and fashion worlds. And the Adidas-backed Donda Doves basketball team has recruited some of the country’s top high-school talent, who are housed in a luxury apartment building with chaperones.

But there has also been mystery surrounding the school, starting with its skimpy website. Adding to the secrecy, sources told Rolling Stone that parents are required to sign nondisclosure agreements. On top of that, the school — which has about 100 students and 16 full-time teachers — has not yet been accredited, leading to doubts about whether students’ credits or diplomas will be accepted by colleges.

Then there is the fact that Donda Academy’s principal and executive director, 28-year-old Brianne Campbell, has never held a formal position as an educator, according to Rolling Stone.

Kanye West is seen at 'DONDA by Kanye West' listening events at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Atlanta
Kanye West is seen at “DONDA by Kanye West” listening events at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Atlanta.
Getty Images for Universal Music

Still, West — a college dropout whose own children with Kim Kardashian do not attend the school — is already planning to open other campuses across the country as well as a Donda University.

“I want to be emphatic that there’s never been a time that Kanye West did not want to do this,” said West collaborator Malik Yusef — who helped conceptualize the school — told Rolling Stone. “I think people don’t understand the gravity of that. This man always wanted to create a school in his mama’s name.”

And Yusef said that the secrecy surrounding the school is one of its main attractions. “People choose to bring their kids to Donda Academy for a sense of privacy,” he said.

Kanye West watching a Donda Doves basketball game.
The Donda Doves have attracted some top high-school basketball talent from around the country.
ab/Gio/BACKGRID

“Honestly, we don’t care if people know about the school,” Donda consultant Tamar Andrews added. “The people that want to come to the school are looking for a good Christian school in that area, and they know that we’re there … There is also a certain notoriety that comes with being affiliated with Donda. So, I don’t know that we have to advertise, which is a blessing and a curse.”

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