V Exclusive: John Legend Speaks On Joining The GIVE Education Campaign: ‘We Have A Crisis In Our Country’


Last week (July 19), Grammy award-winning singer John Legend joined Communities in Schools (CIS) and Proctor & Gamble in announcing the launch of the GIVE Education campaign in a press conference in New York City  that featured a performance by Legend and the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF) Champions Chorus Club from M.S. 390 in the Bronx.

 “What I learned about the education gap in America is that too often, your zip code, your family income, your race, can determine the quality of your education. I knew I had to get involved,” said Legend, who created the “Show Me” campaign that uses education to break the cycle of poverty, sits on the board of Teach for America, the Equality in Education Project and the Harlem Village Academies.

“My passion was heightened even more when I learned about the solutions that are out there working. 

The GIVE Education campaign was developed to help increase awareness of the national dropout rate and help over one million students stay in school.  Not only does a student drop out of school every nine seconds of each school day, but it was found that one-third of high school students and about half of minority students fail to graduate on time. 

Starting Sunday, July 31, GIVE Education brandSAVER coupons featuring John Legend will be distributed in newspapers all over the nation.  P&G (provider of brands such as Bounty, Puffs, Duracell, Pantene, Tide and Olay) has promised to donate two cents to CIS for every GIVE Education coupon redeemed. 

CIS provides mentoring, tutoring, family and career counseling, food, healthcare and other services to limit distractions prohibiting students’ advancement. Because the dropout crisis and low scholastic performance is closely related to homegrown issues and finances, the organization focuses on the lowest performing schools and students who are most likely to drop out.  CIS has over a 90 percent retention rate and is looking to expand.

In a one-on-one with VIBE, John Legend talks about his educational background, partnership with CIS and P&G, influences behind his passion for education, touring with Sade and his upcoming album. Check it out! –Aliya Faust

VIBE: What is your educational background?

John Legend: Well I grew up in Springfield, Ohio. I was home-schooled a little bit. I went to public school for a couple of years, and then I graduated from a public school called Springfield North High School. I went on to graduate from University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Education has been really important to me in broadening my horizons, showing me that there’s more to the world, and giving me the opportunity to be where I am now.

I just learned you’re on the board of other educational organizations. So, what motivates you to become that deeply involved in education?

Well, I know that we have a crisis in our country–particularly in our community. Far too many kids are dropping out of school. Poverty is still persistent in our communities, and I know education is the surest way out of poverty. You know it, I know it. Too many people in our neighborhoods aren’t getting the education they need. They’re getting lost in the system. They end up in the criminal justice system too often. And a lot of times it’s because they start off with the wrong foundation. We need to make sure more of our kids have that right foundation. 

How’d you hear about the GIVE Education campaign?

P&G approached me about CIS and the great work they were doing and said, ‘Would you like to get involved?’ and I said “Yes.” P&G is a company with great reach and great influence in the communities, and Communities in Schools is doing amazing work that’s proven to improve the dropout rate–proven to keep more kids in school. And it’s very much aligned with what I care about. 

What would you say influenced your choice in becoming an advocate for education and helping shape a better America?

I’ve always been inspired by people who’ve did big things. When I was younger I used to read about people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, people who spoke out when they cared about something, people who spoke for justice like Nelson Mandela. And even though I knew I always wanted to do music, I also knew that if I was going to be a successful musician, I wasn’t going to just be famous and rich. I was going to use that fame and those resources that I have to actually help somebody. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

Sounds good. You’re on tour with Sade right now. How’s that going?

It’s going beautifully. I’m having fun. It ends on September 12. We just extended it a week. [The next stop is] New Orleans on Friday. 

And I hear you’re working on a new album?

I’ve been working with Kanye, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Jerry Wonder, a few other producers. We were working a lot in the spring before the tour started, and we’re going to do a lot more in the fall to finish. But we hope to put it out in early 2012.  (SASF) Champions Chorus Club from M.S. 390 in the Bronx.

To learn more about the GIVE Education campaign, visit www.facebook.com/pgmygive. In the meantime, check out the SASF Champions Chorus Club from M.S. 390 in the Bronx and John Legend’s performance at the press conference:

Related Links:
John Legend Partners with Bottled Water Company ‘HINT’ 

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