Education is a marathon, not a sprint, according to television personality Terrence J. “Education is the foundation for everything you do later in life.” This is the philosophy that drives the performer to devote his time, money and energy to participating in education initiatives for young people. Whether it’s Steve Harvey’s Disney Dreamers Academy, the Get Schooled Foundation or the African-American Future Achievers Scholarship, Terrence J inspires kids to pursue their dreams however he can.

OVER EASY: Terrence J planned to skip college, but after continuing education, he found the skills and opportunity it provided for both his career and his life. Photo: Frederick Whitaker

A mass communications degree-holder from North Carolina A&T State University, J gave back to his alma mater in a big way: a $10,000 endowment fund. “My time at A&T getting my education…” the performer says, “It wasn’t just the things I learned in the classroom. It was the time management and life lessons and all the extra-curriculars that made it a comprehensive experience. It helped my career tremendously.”

Paying it forward

“To anyone that has a platform,” J adds, “It’s our obligation to pay it forward.” Helping young people seek an education is something he takes pride in because he remembers all the people it took to help him achieve his dreams. Especially his mom and dad.

“‘It’s a fast-paced society and the imagery of success and wealth is so readily available.’”

“When I graduated high school, I wanted to start working immediately at a radio station,” J says. “My mom and dad made a deal with me: ‘If you go to [college] and start the process—and decide it’s not for you—we’ll support you.’” Along the path of university life, Terrence J fell in love with it, changing him from someone who wasn’t as strong a student in high school to student body president, member of the Student Government Association, and fraternity brother.

“Those things are the reason I’m able to balance multiple jobs now,” J explains.

Today’s challenges

Terrence J cautions young students not to seek the easy path: “It’s a fast-paced society and the imagery of success and wealth is so readily available. People think they can skip the hard work and get straight to the money. Put one brick on top of another—it pays dividends.”

J also hopes students today can learn to balance new media with old tools. “Everybody [in high school] has a laptop and an iPad. But it’s still important to learn research skills, even though it’s easily accessible [on Google]. Learning how to find the information on your own is important.”

Future hopes

“Teachers need to get paid more,” J champions. “Administrators and educators are such an important part of our community. They have a hard job ahead of them. To stay competitive, we need to recruit and pay the best teachers.”

And learning never stops: Terrence continues his education by becoming fluent in Spanish. “If I could go back, I would’ve paid attention in Spanish class when I had the opportunity to learn it for free.”

Getting an education won’t be easy, but J implores young people, “Whether you want to be a doctor, lawyer, singer or NBA player, the more you know, the more it’ll help you accomplish.”