As part of Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America's (BGCA) new advocacy campaign — BE GREAT — five-time Grammy award winner, philanthropist and Boys & Girls Club alumnus Usher has unveiled a new billboard featuring his childhood picture and a call-to-action — BE ICONIC. Usher joins 25 prominent alumni in the new advocacy campaign to help increase public awareness and understanding about the positive impact of Clubs.

From academic failure and gang violence to poverty, drugs and obesity, America’s youth face a daunting array of problems — with serious consequences and fewer safety nets at home and in the community. According to a 2007 BGCA alumni survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 57 percent of alumni reported, “The Club saved my life,” while another 28 percent credited Boys & Girls Clubs with keeping them in school.

“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. “It’s where I developed my love of singing and performing, received help with my homework, and it’s where I found a safe place to go after school.”

In addition to unveiling the billboard, Usher recently visited the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta where he was greeted by screams from more than 200 young members. He addressed the crowd with a simple message: “work hard to achieve your goals and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” During his visit he taped a short film about the positive impact the Club played in his life, which will be the first of several films of prominent alumni for BGCA. The film will debut on BGCA’s Web site www.BeGreatAmerica.org in May, and will also appear on BGCA’s social networking pages including Facebook and YouTube.

Other Club alumni joining Usher in the BE GREAT advocacy campaign include: Academy award-winning actor and national spokesperson for BGCADenzel Washington, Muhammad Ali, Ashanti, Swin Cash, Gen. Wesley Clark, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Queen Latifah, Mario Lopez, John Mellencamp, Edward James Olmos, Shaquille O'Neal, Smokey Robinson, Martin Sheen, John Singleton, Ruben Studdard, Courtney B. Vance, Mark Wahlberg and Kerry Washington.

On May 14, Usher will be inducted into BGCA’s prestigious Alumni Hall of Fame (AHOF) at the organization’s 103rd National Conference in Atlanta.

“We are very excited about Usher joining our BE GREAT campaign and the awareness he will bring to the effectiveness of our generation-changing programs,” said BGCA President and CEO Roxanne Spillett. “He is a shining example of the impact of Clubs, and we are so proud of the great things he has gone on to accomplish.”

Usher will collaborate with BGCA and other alumni to urge the country’s political and business leaders to make the young people of America a priority and encourage every citizen to make a difference by supporting organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs — ensuring that every child has a safe, supervised and structured environment during the critical after-school hours.

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