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Education Sat May 21 2011

"Get Schooled" with Nicki Minaj


Hard work does indeed pay off--and for the 400-plus students at Collins Academy High School in Chicago's North Lawndale community, that hard work paid off in a major way, via a surprise visit on Thursday from Nicki Minaj.

Through Get Schooled, a foundation whose mission is to boost and encourage high attendance and graduation rates, the superstar rapper served as "Principal for a Day," a reward given to the school for winning the Get MotivatED Challenge, a six-week competition aimed at improving students' daily attendance nationwide. Throughout the challenge, both students and teachers collaborated to motivate students which resulted in the school's daily attendance rate improving by 7 percent. Since the end of the challenge, Collins Academy has maintained an attendance rate at 92 percent, confirming its place at the top among all Chicago high schools.

Minaj, widely known for her flamboyant costumes and outrageous stage persona, put her celebrity status on hold when it came to speaking to the students about education. "You guys are the most important people in the world," said Minaj. "Do you know the power you have?" When joined onstage by MTV personality Sway Calloway, Minaj also took time out to speak about the importance of education and the entertainment industry. "A lot of you guys want to be in the entertainment business--and the key word is business," she said. "If you look at it just as entertainment, you'll fail."

The action-packed assembly also featured a presentation of $10,000 college scholarships from Comcast to three outstanding Collins Academy students. An additional highlight was performances by Collins Academy students including the all-female trio Faith, Hope and Spirit, and the "C.A. Boys," who both rapped and sung about the importance of staying in school.

Although Minaj didn't perform any of her chart-topping hits, her presence and the impact of her message still filled the air. "If I didn't have an education I would've probably signed a horrible contract. It's important to be educated--and that goes a long way."

Photo: Timothy Hiatt

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