Will.i.am, Oprah help teens to college

May 5, 2009 3:52:05 PM PDT
Four friends from Newark, Delaware with dreams of going to college got the surprise of their lives on the Oprah Winfrey show. It all started with a letter.

The students are all members of the track team at Christiana High School.

Winning the state trophy last February wasn't enough for Jaiquann Beckham. He dreamed of going to Cabrini College. But, without financial help, he knew no amount of running would get him there.

So, he took a chance by writing to Oprah. Not only about himself, but about three of his teammates.

"I just wanted her to know that we were a bunch of African-American male athletes that got good grades, and we just wanted to ask for help from anybody willing to help us," Beckham said.

That 'anybody' turned out to be entertainer Will.i.am, who made the boys the first to receive a full ride to college, thanks to a scholarship he's starting.

"I wanted to meet you guys to invest in America's future," Will.i.am said. "And I want to send you guys to college," he continued, to applause from the audience, and big smiles on the faces of the four teens.

RELATED LINK: Will.i.am's scholarship program

For Darien White, it means making better choices than his dad, who is now incarcerated. As for being on the show with his twin brother and teammates:

"Oprah was great. She was really nice. Will.i.am also, he actually helped us and awarded us the scholarship," White said. "He's a great guy and I just want to say 'Thank you.'"

Also thankful is Elijah Williams, who knew his single mom could never afford college, so he stifled his dreams of even going.

"I'm glad I always kept my grades up, just in case I wanted to go to college. Like I said, I never did plan on going to college and now I'm excited about it. I can't wait," Williams said.

Wednesday will no doubt be a whole lot different for the students. Not only will they be stars, they will also be shining examples of what happens when you reach for one.

"I think it proved to the students that anything can happen as long as you're willing to work hard," said senior Barrien White.

Being featured on 'Oprah' proves to all of these kids that hard work pays off, even for those running against all odds.

"It's like a blessing fron God," said track coach David Jones. "I think you know he works in mysterious ways."

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