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Dear Rachel,

This is an open letter to you and all the young people in this country who, through no fault of your own, find yourself living in under-served communities and not yet figuring out your way in this world.

There is hope. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do and who you cannot be, or better yet… become.  And whether you believe it or not, the key is education. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s something that will make you a contender for opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be considered for.

Yes, of course there are a lot of high school, college and even post graduate grads out here who are having trouble finding jobs. But statistics bear out that people with high school diplomas and GEDs do better than those without. And people with college degrees do better than people without them, even during a recession.

But it isn’t only the diploma and degree itself. It’s the sense of accomplishment, your ability to stay with something and follow it through to completion, the people you will meet, and the lasting friendships you will make all come into play.

Learning a trade or becoming an entrepreneur are also good options. All I ask is that you think about your future  and ways to ensure that you’re happy, healthy and productive.

The Tom Joyner Foundation for years has invested in students who may have everything but the financial resources to complete their college education. And even though I leapt out there without getting permission from the president, my son Thomas Joyner Jr., I promise to make good on my offer to you, Rachel. Like so many others, I was touched by you too and even though I wanted to give you a big hug, I realized a hug wasn’t enough. My mom did a good job at teaching us to give back and she’s the reason we started the Tom Joyner Foundation in the first place.

An Open Letter to Rachel Jeantel  was originally published on

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