By: Amber Leon of the Grio
At the third annual “I Will Graduate Day” presented this year in New York by Entertainers for Education Alliance (E4EA), some of entertainment’s key players came out to promote higher learning.
“We decided to develop an event that was going to be the perfect blend between education and entertainment,” said founder/executive of E4EA Tonya Lewis.
Amongst the line-up were NY native rappers Maino and Jim Jones, singer/songwriter/producer Sean Garrett and TV host and actor Terrence J.
“Anytime I get an opportunity to speak to kids about inspiration and about dreams and about moving forward, I like to do that,” said Maino. Using his background of soliciting drugs and spending eight years in prison as the basis of his speech, the “Let It Fly” artist explained to the students that if he could turn his life around, their opportunities were endless. He said, “It just takes work, preservation and courage to actually go out there and make it happen.” These are the principles he says he instills in his 9-year-old son.
These words of encouragement come at a great time when education in the African-American community is on the rise. According to the State of the African-American Consumer Report by Nielsen, the black community has seen growth in academic achievement at all levels of schooling. The number of blacks attending college has grown from 39.6 percent to 45.39 percent. And the number of blacks attaining a degree has grown from 44.9 percent to 53.69 percent.
“That’s one good thing about education in our country,” said Terrence J. “We’re a country where it comes free to everybody. And as long as you do your thing in school and as long as you keep up with your grades, you are able to get a post high school education as well under the government.”
In his travels around the world, The 106 and Park host said he has come across many countries where education is not free. He said that Haiti is currently in the process of restructuring their education system. “Here in America we have great schools and it’s just imperative that the youth goes to school and tries to further their education and graduate.”
Entertainers for Education Alliance are advocates of this same belief. “We’re trying to empower young people to make a decision that no matter what you go through, you have to finish the goal that was set for you, which is school,” said Lewis, executive of E4E.
The message is continuous and E4E has a few tricks up their sleeves to get children listening. Their latest campaign teams up with Sean Garrett to give one lucky teen the chance to become a superstar. “These are the most important moments of my career… just being able to come back, see kids and talk to them.”
They also have a magazine called Teenkonec which focuses on improving literacy in students.
“Every event that they have done, I’ve participated in,” said Jim Jones. Well that’s because in further effort to reach out to children, the E4E put together a curriculum that students can relate to. As long as they maintain grades in the core classes, students are allowed to take the E4Eboard member’s eight week course, Music Business 101.
Jones said, “It breaks down the classroom into a fully functioning record label and I show them how to market and promote an artist and a record from the beginning to the stages that it gets put in the stores.”
“They see these people on TV, they see these artists in the video and they don’t realize that many of them are very educated. In order to navigate through this business we call entertainment, you have to be smart,” said Lewis.
As the ambassador of McDonald’s African-American Future Achievers Scholarship Campaign and a participant in Steve Harvey’s Disney Dreamers Academy, Terrence J said he helps out with educational initiatives year round. This year the Disney Dreamer program should be taking one hundred lucky students and their parents to Disney World sometime in January.
“These celebrities are very important in what we do,” said Lewis. Kids think, “These are the people that I see on TV and now they’re coming to share a little bit of their time with me to say you can make it, I did it and you can too.”
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