Common Ground Foundation Beasts

Common Ground Foundation Asks Youth to Find Their Spark and Follow it

Hip-hop's Common is bringing fresh perspectives to the world of education.

Academy award-winning actor, hip-hop artist, and writer Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr.—better known as Common—founded a non-profit with the belief that education should constantly be evolving to adapt to new ideas.

Common Ground Foundation provides mentorship to high school students and hosts youth-focused summer camps and conferences around the country. They hope to nurture their students to become informed citizens who are active in creating a sustainable future.

“I always believed that if we started with the youth then we would be planting the seeds for our future to blossom,” it says in their mission statement. “Give the children a sense of hope, self-esteem, and love that will better the world.”


What makes Common Ground particularly unique in comparison to other after-school programs is the idea of a reciprocal relationship between student and mentor. Ideas, opinions, and personal interests are welcome additions from students. Common Ground wants students to find what sparks their curiosity and to run with it, whatever it is.

“We have to relate to one another,” Common says. “Teachers have to know how to relate. If we can relate as educators, and teachers and school systems to the youth, they will receive it and retain it. And go out and apply it at a higher level.”

Their programs focus on character development, finding a healthy lifestyle, literacy in global leadership, tech and finances, and the importance of social impact.

Common knows that a little self-esteem and support can go a long way. Through this positive impact he hopes to see poverty go down and education go up.



Feature photo:


John Legend’s Unlocked Futures Takes Aim at America’s Recidivism Problem

America has the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world. John Legend and friends are working to reverse this staggering statistic.

John Legend – the silky-voiced pop star who turns all the heads – is a social justice ninja working hard to reduce recidivism. First, through his non-profit FREEAMERICA, and now with an accelerator program called Unlocked Futures, Legend tackles prison reform with the deep belief that some simple changes can make a monumentally positive impact.

Studies show that the lack of resources available for folks after they get out of prison is likely what leads them back in. Finding a support network and landing a job soon after release will statistically make a formerly incarcerated person much less likely to return to prison.

“Too often are formerly incarcerated individuals locked out of job opportunities because of their past,” Legend stated last spring on New Profit. “I have seen that entrepreneurship is a viable way for formerly incarcerated individuals to build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their communities and neighborhoods.”

Through a large grant from Bank of America and mentorship from New Profit, Unlocked Futures gives funding and coaching support to formerly incarcerated individuals who are pushing mission-driven organizations and companies.


John Legend with Unlocked Ventures entrepreneurs. Photo: better tarrant


Will Avila, founder of Clean Decisions. Photo: Unlocked Futures.


A few organizations from the accelerator’s first round include an app called Flikshop that makes it easy to send photo postcards to inmates,  Hope House – housing for formerly incarcerated women getting back on their feet – and Clean Decisions, a commercial kitchen cleaning company that employs all formerly incarcerated folks. Will Avila, Clean Decisions founder, says initiatives like Unlocked Futures are what is needed to break the cycle.

“Entrepreneurship is a powerful cycle because almost every returning citizen I know is crafting a business that helps others who have served time,” Avila told Nationswell.

With the success of Unlocked Futures, we get a glimpse of how different a nation built around support networks and second chances can look. It’s innovative, it would save us a lot of money (our prisons cost taxpayers $80 billion a year), it would make a lot of families happily whole again.

Go here to read up on Unlocked Venture’s first round of kickass entrepreneurs.


Feature photo, left to right:  James Monteiro, Topeka K. Sam, Jason Cleaveland, Marcus Bullock, Dirk Van Velzen, Amanda Alexander, Will Avila, and Teresa Hodge (Photo: Unlocked Futures)

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