The celebrity spotlight is home turf for Earvin “Magic” Johnson -- a superb athlete, Johnson dazzled during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, when he tested positive for the HIV virus during routine physical in 1991, it looked like his career was over and his life was in jeopardy. Ever an optimist, Johnson wasn’t ready to call it quits. Thanks to aggressive treatment, his health stabilized, giving him the ability to continue his professional career. And even though he officially retired from basketball in 1996, Johnson has harnessed his star power, becoming a phenomenally successful businessman and a leading philanthropist via the Magic Johnson Foundation.
Now in its 21st year, the Magic Johnson Foundation takes its mission to ‘enlightenment through education’ very seriously. Working with high-profile corporate sponsors, the foundation funds a number of programs dealing with HIV/Aids awareness, treatment and prevention. But the overarching goal of the foundation is to provide education and leadership opportunity to ethnically diverse, underserved minority communities.
Since 1998, the Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than $3 million dollars in financial assistance to over 350 students via the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program (TMSP). Johnson established the scholarship program to honor the memory of the late Taylor Michaels, who was the chief operating officer for Magic Johnson Enterprises, and a passionate advocate for expanding educational opportunities for minority youth. The TMSP is a five-point initiative:
This year the foundation has committed $500,000 to fund a total of 141 undergraduate Scholars. Taking the stage at the annual Leadership Conference, Johnson announced the names 33 ‘rookies’ who have been awarded scholarships.
The TMSP is a major part of Johnson’s aim to reverse the plummeting college completion rates in low-income communities. While the national graduation rates for underserved and underrepresented students is about 45%, over 80% of Taylor Michaels Scholars have received college degrees at high profile insitutuions such as Howard University, Brown University, Morehouse College, University of Southern California and UCLA. It sure looks like the “Magic” formula is working!