updated 01/27/2009 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 01/27/2009 AT 9:45 AM ET
With Rosie O’Donnell’s blogger days behind her, she’s ready to focus on providing a different kind of entertainment: a four-story arts school in the heart of New York’s theater district.
“When I started to blog, no one knew what a blog was,” O’Donnell tells PEOPLE while cutting the ribbon at the brand-new Maravel Arts Center Monday. “Then it got so commonplace, it was kind of being used on entertainment shows as edited pieces. I was like, ‘It’s not worth it.’ It wasn’t providing the joy that it used to.”
But she won’t be completely offline for long. “I’m gonna start to put up pieces about [Rosie’s Broadway Kids], more to showcase things that I’m doing as opposed to my inner angst or thoughts,” she says. “I’m gonna put up a little movie about this event.”
Five Years in the Making
The Maravel Arts Center, a sanctuary of song and dance for select New York City school children, has been under construction for the last five years. It’s named for Pat Maravel, a 26-year-old math teacher in O’Donnell’s hometown of Commack, Long Island.
“I was a little kid who had a tough situation, and she took me under her wing,” O’Donnell explains. “I wouldn’t be here without her, and the school should be named after her. She taught me that the way to save a kid is to love ‘em back to life – one-on-one. And that’s what we do here.” Rosie’s Broadway Kids brings musical theater programs to about 3,000 kids each year. As O’Donnell points out, 80 percent of the kids in the program live below the poverty level. “You walk in [to the center] and it’s so clean and light and open and fresh. A lot of the kids were saying to me, ‘I’ve never been in anything like this.’ … And I said to them, ‘Not only are you here, but it’s yours.’ ”