I just rolled up off a big yellow bus... the Get Schooled National Challenge & Tour Bus.
We traveled across America from New York City to Memphis to Seattle and beyond. The 2010 Get Schooled National Challenge & Tour visited 10 cities in 10 weeks and touched more than 12,000 students. Our mission was to encourage students to take control of their education and to inspire them in a creative way to realize that there is nothing more important than earning a degree. The mission is not over, but we're on our way.
Most HuffPost readers know how bad the state of education is in the United States. Every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school. Every school day 7,000 students walk out on their education. In one generation, America has moved from first to 12th place in the number of adults with a college degree. Our country's education dialogue is usually influenced by the educators and administrators, and maybe a mayor or a senator with an education platform.
It is time to get young Americans involved. Get Schooled, which launched last year, has partnered with several high profile initiatives to engage and empower Americans to get involved and take specific steps to improve high school graduation rates, improve college readiness and ultimately raise college completion rates. Get Schooled was founded by Viacom (parent company of BET Networks, MTV Networks, and Paramount Pictures) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The 2010 Get Schooled National Challenge & Tour was the latest event designed to reach the people that are most affected by this crisis: the kids in school today. Get Schooled worked with principals to get the word out that the Get Schooled campaign was coming. Kids who wanted to be part of the tour were asked to "step up." Some of the country's top entertainers and athletes with a commitment to education came out for the Tour because they knew that students would listen to what they had to say, including Keri Hilson, Big Boi, Christian Slater, Ludacris, Common, Ciara, Pharrell Williams, Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony, Lala Vasquez, Saigon, Freeway, Marsha Ambrosius.
These Get Schooled "education ambassadors" put their entertainment personas and their egos aside and got real about school. In conversations with students across the country they talked about how education has been invaluable to their chosen profession, (yes, you really will use what you learn in math), how they kept going in school even when the road was difficult or classes seemed boring, and they spoke about the factors in their lives that contributed to their success (a great mom was always at the top of the list). Most importantly, our education ambassadors told these young people that only by identifying personal education goals and making a commitment to achieving them, would they be able to control their destiny and achieve their dreams.
At every tour stop I was blown away by the unbelievable enthusiasm showered on us. The gymnasium or auditoriums rocked with energy and excitement. Most of the students that participated had already stepped up to achieve a personal educational milestone -- from perfect attendance to improving their grades and test scores. Students heard stories from their principals, their peers, and other graduates who have faced challenges along the way and succeeded.
For me, the most inspiring part was talking to the kids. I listened to their hopes and dreams about of the things they felt they needed in order to be successful, their fears about graduating, and the challenges they face every day. The students I met know that education is the key to unlocking the door to their dreams. They get it. They showed that they have the motivation, the dedication, and the drive to accomplish great things. But so many more kids need to hear this message and become part of this movement.
Every one of us has at least one young person in our lives that we can motivate and inspire. We can and we must lead the way for young people, first, by providing them access to the best education possible, second, by helping them to recognize that a great education is the pathway to a great future and inspiring them, motivating them and engaging with them along the way.
How do we do this? We need to Get Active -- by getting more involved in our kids' schoolwork and their lives at school; Get Loud -- talk to teachers, principals, and local elected officials and demand change; and Get In the Know -- education can be a mystery -- find out school choices, financial aid options, and how to get to college. You can start by visiting www.getschooled.com.
It's time for everyone to step up to the Get Schooled challenge.