Boys and Girls Clubs Alumni Celebration

Boys and Girls Clubs Alumni Celebration
ESSENCE.COM May, 15, 2009

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The 2009 Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame inductees were honored during a special ceremony at the 103rd Annual National Conference in Atlanta.

Inductees included: (left to right) Former Chairman/CEO, Principal Financial Group and current President of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, J. Barry Griswell; the mother of head coach of the 2009 Super Bowl Champions Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin; former NFL tackle for Minnesota Vikings, turned Judge of the Juvenile Court in Knox, County, Tenn., Judge Tim Irwin; five-time Grammy Award-winner, Usher Raymond, IV and Grammy Award-winning R&B performer, Ashanti Douglas.

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“Growing up in the Club, I had the chance to experience a lot of positive things; it helped reinforce the values I learned at home including good character, leadership and giving back to my community, my country and my world,” said Usher.

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Ashanti credits the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for giving her her first break and being a place where she could perform in front of people who she knew would support her. Usher thanks his local Boys & Girls Club for being a positive place for him to thrive as a child saying, “I knew I wasn’t going to be a baseball or football player because I couldn’t hang. But it’s the type of positive environment that you would want your children in.”

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Award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance served as host of the ceremony. Vance is also an alumni of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

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Comedian, actor and best-selling author Bill Cosby and Harvard professor Alvin Pouissaint addressed the opening meeting of the Boys and Girls Club of America’s national conference. As usual Cosby didn’t hold back, using themes from his book, “Come on People: On the Path From Victims to Victors” to deliver a message to youth leaders. He implored them to expose younger kids to the advantages of education.

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Nicknamed the “Princess of Hip Hop,” Ashanti performed for the very first time onstage as a youngster at the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club, where her mother, Tina Douglas, once taught dance.

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Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield wasn’t scheduled to attend but came because of his history as a Club kid. He spoke for a few minutes about how he learned to box at the Club and the impact it had on his life.

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Five-time Grammy-winner Usher Raymond IV admits that he discovered music at an early age, performing in the church choir and at talent shows. The Highland Park Boys Club he attended gave him the motivation to pursue his dreams and fostered a love of community service.

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Joined by award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance, Ashanti accepts the alumni hall of fame award. In 2008, Ashanti partnered with jeweler Cartier on a “Love” bracelet. Proceeds went to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Recently she joined the organization’s BE GREAT campaign to inspire young people to pursue their dreams.

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Usher has released eight albums in his career so far, selling more than 35 million copies worldwide. In 1999, he founded Usher’s New Look, a nonprofit organization that gives youth a firsthand look at the business side of sports and entertainment.

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