John Legend guest lectures at Howard
Amidst a discussion about school segregation in Howard University Professor Greg Carr's "Education in Black America" course Thursday morning, there was a knock at the door -- and an announcement that there would be a chance in lecturer.
"Surprise, surprise," said singer John Legend, a six-time Grammy winner and philanthropist. Legend was in Washington to attend the premier of "Waiting for Superman," a documentary about education reform that features his music, and promote his new album with the Roots, "Wake Up!"
The four dozen or so students in the class laughed and clapped, shouted out greetings and snapped photos with their cellphones, and then everything reverted back to a regular classroom -- well, other than the mtvU cameras and bright lights.
In jeans and a blazer, Legend spoke with the students about education inequality in America, which he says "is the civil rights issue of our time." Legend told the students about how he was home-schooled by his mother for several years and then attended public school, where he was inspired by teachers who deeply cared about his education. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. (While in college, Legend said he tried to never schedule early morning classes -- and commended the class for showing up.)
"I was one of the lucky ones. Too many other kids don't have that opportunity today," he said, later adding: "We need all hands on deck to tackle this problem."
Legend's appearance kicked off a partnership between the College Board and MTV to address hurdles students face in the college financial aid process and introduce an "innovative digital tool" to help. The "Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge" asks students to submit their ideas for simplifying the process and hooking more students up with the aid they need to complete school.
Students can submit their ideas through Dec. 17 and three finalists will be announced early next year. The three proposals will go up for a vote on MTV.com and the winner will receive $10,000, plus the chance to develop his or her digital tool with a $100,000 budget.
The cost of college is one of the leading reasons many students do not attend or drop out before graduating. Here are two stats MTV and the College Board are using a lot during this campaign:
Upwards of two million college students don't apply for any of the nearly $70 billion in financial aid the government distributes each year, and that almost two-thirds of students find the process of applying for financial aid difficult.
"Financial aid is such a complex thing. ... Schools are out there, Web sites are out there and aid is out there, but people don't know where to find it," said Michael Hamilton, a Howard junior from North Carolina who listened to Legend's lecture. "Education is education. I would rather take out loans and get an education than sit at home and do nothing."
Photo by TJ Kirkpatrick of the PictureGroup..
September 16, 2010; 2:28 PM ET
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