New York, NY, February 28, 2011--In the face of the staggering number of 42 million Americans who cannot read, write or perform simple math, and nearly 1 million of that number being young people who drop out of school each year--stand-up comedian, actor, and host, Mike Epps along with his wife, actress Mechelle Epps, are focusing their efforts on improving the lives of at risk youth through literacy arts.
The Michael and Mechelle Epps Foundation's Youth Literacy Arts program uses art activities from a specialized curriculum that combines music, theatre, and writing. The goal is to improve grammar, expand vocabulary and encourage the ability to communicate through written word.
A special performance that included poetry, art and music was provided by the students of P.S./I.S. 76 and The Harlem Children’s Zone on Friday, February 25, 2011 for the Epps. Michael and Mechelle spoke to elementary and middle school youth about the importance of education.
“We decided to start the foundation because we know a lot of kids could be great adults, if they had the proper support as children. Last year, NBC reported that nearly 1.2 million teens hit the street every year unable to read or write. And according to CNN, “7,000 high school students drop out every year, that’s one every 26 seconds,” says Mechelle, a mother of two daughters with Mike.
Michael and Mechelle Epps also received a Proclamation from New York Senator John Sampson, Leader of the Democratic Conference at Questan’s Restaurant in Harlem.
The couple kicked off their initiative on February 24th by teaming up with Lynis Walters, also known as Grammy Award winning hip hop artist, “Queen Pen,” by visiting adolescents in the Institute for Inner Development and Faith in Reentry program at Rikers Island. Walters has been intimately involved in developing at risk teens and speaking in juvenile prisons, group homes, and inner city schools.
Mike delivered a motivational speech to about 300 youth ages 16-18 in Rikers encouraging them to focus on their talents and their ability to succeed regardless of their current circumstances. He also treated them to a 20-minute comedy show.
“For the last 14 years or so I've been working with at risk adolescents and I can not stress enough how much PREVENTIVE measurements work with these children. What Mike and Mechelle are doing is not only necessary, but also brave. Our children deserve a chance. It's easier to build a child...than to repair an adult," said Queen Pen.
The Rikers visit was followed by a reception on Wall Street to introduce the initiative to New York’s philanthropic community.
The Epps plan to hit several other major cities, with plans to start full development in Indianapolis, IN, Mike Epps’ hometown.