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Actor Taye Diggs presents $75k to School of the Arts


Teachers at Rochester's School of the Arts were surprised Wednesday when a particularly well-known alumnus dropped by in a virtual call for a special announcement.

Actor Taye Diggs presented school staff with a $75,000 grant from Burlington Stores and the nonprofit Adopt A Classroom. The grant will be used to help offset the money teachers spend out of pocket on school supplies every year. Each classroom will get $750 for supplies.

Diggs, who graduated from SOTA in 1994, said he credits his teachers there for creating the foundation for his success.

“My mother was a teacher, so there has always been a large place of heart for teachers in general,” Diggs said.

He added that he hopes the grant will be used to help inspire students, just like he was.

“I'm lucky in that I have been able to do only what I thought I wanted to do in high school at School of the Arts," Diggs said. "That’s major proof that this money that Burlington and Adopt-a-Classroom that they’re generously donating, it has an effect.”

During the call, Diggs was reunited with his former teacher MaryLee Miller.

Miller said she's thankful for the assistance because it's common for teachers to spend their own money to provide basic supplies.

“Sometimes to the tune of a thousand or more dollars a year, maybe more than that. And when you are first starting to teach, that’s huge,” Miller said.

Diggs' roles in highly successful productions on stage and on screen have taken the 50-year-old far from Rochester during his 30-year career. He's best known for his roles in "Rent," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

When asked if he would make his way to Rochester any time soon, Diggs was a little coy.

“Soon as time avails itself," he said, "because it's been too long … soon come.”