It may be because her mother was at one point a teacher, but education has always been important to Rachel Weisz. “Both my parents were immigrants and it was the most important thing that I go to a good university,” says the Oscar-winning actress.
When she and her husband, Daniel Craig, decided to make a home in New York City, they were interested in finding a local charity that involved scholarships. Opportunity Network, which was co-founded by CAA’s head of corporate finance Brian Weinstein, was a natural choice for the CAA clients.
OppNet’s co-founder/CEO Jessica Pliska, was instantly intrigued by the actress at their first meeting. “She is just dynamite and has so much fierceness and tenacity,” says Weisz.
Founded in 2003, the Opportunity Network aims to help students increase their potential to get into and graduate from college. Starting as young as age 13, kids in the New York City area can get aid with internships, preparation for interviews and college application tutors.
“Some of these kids don’t even have the $150 for the application fee, so we help with that,” says Weisz. “We drive them to colleges for student days, help with many life skills. All the things I kind of take for granted.”
She points to a teenager she met last year who had never been outside Brooklyn. “He ended up going to college on the West Coast and his life is transformed,” she notes. “His horizons are so much broadened by the opportunity.”
Weisz calls the organization very grassroots and very effective. “They have almost a zero percentage of dropouts, the kids who make it all the way through college,” she notes. “It’s pretty extraordinary.”
And also incredibly touching. “The most moving thing is to see this incredible desire to learn and go to college and to help them on that path,” says Weisz. “It’s very inspiring to be around an 18-year-old kid who’s burning to go to college and learn.”