Denzel Washington still applies the same principles in his acting career that he learned when he was a third grader in the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Now, the Oscar-winning actor along with director Ron Howard want to show how the club has impacted his life along with 20 other celebrities and entertainers, who were once members of the club.
Washington, the club's national spokesman, took part Wednesday in the debut of the club's campaign public service announcement called "Great Future Start Here." The PSA, which was directed by Howard, looks to draw awareness to the high school dropout rate, childhood obesity and youth violence.
"I want to be part of a solution," Washington said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., after the launch of the announcement. "I want to take the positive approach in regards to these kids. They inspire me. We can't focus on the problem. We have to focus on the solution."
Washington said when he was a member of the Mount Vernon, N.Y., club as a third grader, his track coach made a difference in his life just when he was trying out for a relay team.
"This new kid who joined the track team was faster than me, and I was worried about it," Washington said. "But my mentor basically told me that my natural ability would only take me so far without the fundamentals. ... Today, I still use those same lessons thanks to what I learned from my mentor at the club."
The video also features Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O'Neal, Martin Sheen, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mario Lopez, Ne-Yo, Lucille O'Neal, Ashanti, Gen. Wesley Clark, Kerry Washington, Shaun White, Misty Copeland, John Paul DeJoria, Smokey Robinson, C.C. Sabathia, Courtney Vance, Edward James Olmos, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Cuba Gooding Jr.
The music for the spot includes Beyonce's single "I Was Here" from her latest album, "4."
Howard, who was never a member of the Boys & Girls Club, said he was compelled to support the club once he understood the impact of the organization.
"At the Boys & Girls Club, there's no pressure of a parental point of view," Howard said. "There's not the pressure of grades. It's a nurturing environment where each kid or individual can count for something."
On the Net:
Boys & Girls Clubs of America: http://www.bgca.org/newsevents/Pages/GFSH_PSA.aspx
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mrlandrum31