Hometown Hero: Usher’s foundation looks to grow leaders
By Bill Hendrick
Shawn Wilson is a firm believer in the ancient Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And Wilson feels he’s taken the first giant step, jogging 26.2 miles in the recent Atlanta Marathon for the New Look Foundation’s Run4EDU campaign, and raising about $10,000.
The goal of the campaign, one of many sponsored by Atlanta celebrity Usher Raymond IV was to raise money to educate and motivate underprivileged kids, here and around the world, as well as to teach them how to be leaders.
That campaign has no finish line says 38-year-old Wilson, president of Atlanta-based New Look. The goal of the Run4EDU campaign and other New Look efforts is to raise money to send young people to college through scholarships.
With costs of tuition skyrocketing, college loans harder to get and with Georgia ranking low in education compared to other states, higher education is essential but still difficult among minorities for many reasons.
Money is one of the biggest roadblocks.
The New Look Foundation is doing what it can to tackle the problem, not just by raising money, but by training leaders, and sending them into dozens of Atlanta-area schools to inspire middle and high-school youths to do their best and realize that dreams really can come true.
“We help youth understand there is an educational component in everything in life,” he says. “We provide scholarships and stipends, as many as we can.”
The foundation partners with the Emory School of Business, which helped the non-profit develop a curriculum. The foundation sponsors about 600 hours of leadership training for about 1,000 youngsters a year at Emory.
New Look also has arranged for Atlanta youngsters to meet with political leaders such as President Clinton and train youths as far away as Africa.
“We don’t just have our leaders speak in schools, but in companies like Home Depot, in front of Congress,” Wilson says. “Our ultimate goal is to teach youth to be leadership pillars. We tell them, there is no success without education, but it doesn’t always have to be a four-year thing. We’ve had kids get certificates at the Atlanta Institute of Music. We try to help them tap into their own passion.”
Brandon Hamilton, a 21-year-old computer information systems major at Georgia State, is one of the organization’s leaders.
“We have meetings every other week at Emory,” he says. “We train leaders.”
Brandon, who has traveled the world preaching New Look values, says he now feels “more optimistic about the future” and that every time he breaks through to a youngster, whether in Atlanta or Kenya, “it feels good ‘cause I’ve given back. I learned this from Usher, that it’s always so good to give back.”
Youths selected for New Look assistance pay nothing, but they must be serious and goal oriented.
New Look “is about sending the next generation out in the world with the knowledge, experience and empowerment they need to succeed,” says Usher. “These kids inspire me every day.”
To learn more and/or donate, go to www.ushersnewlook.org
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