will.i.am Attends First Inspires Gala

The Black Eyed Peas frontman's foundation is dedicated to getting robotics programs in underserved schools.

Dean Kamen, Ursula Burns, will.i.am and Chris Moore attend a will.i.am and Dean Kamen hosted fundraising gala for FIRST® & i.am/Angel Foundation (Photo by Ivan Apfel/Getty Images for FIRST)

Black Eye Peas frontman (and nephew of former Atlanta Falcons player Lynn Cain) will.i.am attended the FIRST® Robotics & i.am/Angel Foundation Gala in Miami. Also there: funk legend George Clinton and Mike Bezos, father of Amazon founder and Miami resident Jeff Bezos.  The annual Gala celebrates the vital role STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education plays in developing today’s youth. And will.i.am’s foundation i.am/Angel Foundation teams up frequently with First is a robotics, a community founded by Dean Kamen to create programs that can be implemented in school classrooms and afterschool programs.

SocialAtlanta caught up with the GRAMMY-winning performer (at last count, seven wins and 28 nominations) to discuss his philanthropy.

What inspires you?
I’m a recipient of someone’s philanthropic endeavors,” will.i.am told SocialAtlanta. “I come from a very poor neighborhood in east Los Angeles. And someone thought about after school programs and summer lunches. Someone thought about magnet programs for kids who come from communities like mine. Someone thought to better communities and to invest in education and opportunities. And someone though to show these kids a brighter side of society.”

What’s your personal touch on philanthropy?
“Showing kids the brighter side of things shouldn’t be the only path. Maybe keeping kids in the community that they come from to encourage them to love their community and giving them the skill sets to change the community themselves. As we saw, a hood will be gentrified: Brooklyn. A hood will be gentrified: Boyle heights. That doesn’t mean you have to move the people who come from these communities out of the neighborhood, not if they’re the ones transforming the communities themselves. You give them the opportunity and the investment for these skill sets to change the communities for themselves the better.

What would you say to others who want to get involved?
Go to a high school, adopt that high school and outfit that school with FIRST robotics program. Because 80 percent of schools in the hood are not equipped with a stem skillset or robotics program like FIRST. I have seen firsthand how it’s changed my community, started with 65 students, my college prep and robotics program, in collaboration with first and now I serve over 1300 kids and 300 robotics programs.

will.i.am and George Clinton (Photo by Ivan Apfel/Getty Images for FIRST)
will.i.am and George Clinton (Photo by Ivan Apfel/Getty Images for FIRST)
Robotics student, will.i.am and Dean Kamen ride a student-made robot at the fundraising gala for FIRST® and i.am/Angel Foundation (Photo by Ivan Apfel/Getty Images for FIRST)
Mike Bezos and Dean Kamen
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