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The surprising way will.i.am is giving back to his childhood neighborhood

Most of us know will.i.am as the frontman of The Black Eyed Peas and as a super producer to the stars, but the seven time Grammy Award-winner is also a committed philanthropist who is passionate about education — and robotics. Will.i.am grew up in East Los Angeles as part of the few black families of this predominantly Mexican neighborhood. In 2009, will.i.am founded his i.am.angel foundation in East L.A. where the curriculum is centered around STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

The young students that attend i.am.angel’s after-school programs learn how to code, build robots, and even have an annual trip every year to China to learn Cantonese and Mandarin.

Will.i.am told Univision’s Enrique Acevedo at the World Economic Forum in Davos how proud he is that some of his students are now headed to MIT and University of California, Irvine. “It’s simple: ‘Hey guys, what do you want to be? Do you want to follow the life of crime that the neighborhood offers you or do you want to be Carlos Slim?'” he asks the students. “There’s a Mexican guy who’s one of the richest guys in the world, and it’s from technology. Technology is the way to go.”

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