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Education has long been a hot button issue in the entertainment community and on Friday night a long list of heavy hitters, including Justin Timberlake, Chance the Rapper and Samuel L. Jackson came out to lend their support for the XQ Super School Live television special presented by the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
Hosted by Academy Award winner Viola Davis, the special was broadcast live on all four major networks and challenged viewers to reconsider how they could help improve and transform American high schools.
For Jackson, who was raised in a family of educators, the issue of helping America’s schools is deeply personal.
“I’m a firm believer in education. It breaks my heart to read about the number of kids who drop out of school every year and I think that’s part and parcel of how the education system works,” he told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. “We need to identify a way to make going to school an exciting prospect for kids. We need to identify what each kid wants to learn and give them ways into real life experiences.”
The show itself was full of high-energy performances from soulful musical acts to exhilarating dance numbers and even a marching band all with a seemingly never-ending parade of stars who appeared on stage to extol the need for America to find a new approach to education.
Actress Miranda Cosgrove told THR about the teacher in her life that inspired her to embrace education.
“I had a teacher named Patty Boyd that I had all through high school and she was amazing. She always encouraged me to try different things and to actually go with what inspired [me],” she said.
Viola Davis, who also co-executive produced the one-hour special with her husband Julius Tennon, walked the carpet with her family, alongside her sister Deloris who is a high school English teacher.
Davis spoke to the impact that a caring and dedicated teacher can have on a young student’s life by touting the person who impacted her education the most.
“Jeff Kenyon — he was a teacher in the Upward Bound program and the best thing that he told me is that I’m important,” she told THR. “I think that there’s a lot of awkward high school students out there that have probably x’d themselves out. It’s an awkward phase in life. You don’t feel like you’re pretty enough, good enough, smart enough — nothing is enough. [Kenyon] taught me that I was enough. He listened to me. That was the best education that he gave me.”
XQ is an initiative championed by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs. To date, the organization has pledged $115 million to support teams on their journeys to create America’s next “super” schools.
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