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Kelly Clarkson and LeBron James in "get schooled"

 Singer Kelly Clarkson performs during the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, June 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch - Reuters
Singer Kelly Clarkson performs during the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, June 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
— image credit: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Singer Kelly Clarkson and basketball superstar LeBron James are teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and broadcaster Viacom for a TV special to encourage America's youth to "Get Schooled," organizers said on Friday

Former "American Idol" Clarkson and Cleveland Cavaliers player James will talk about the role education has played in their lives in the 30-minute show on September 8. It will be broadcast simultaneously across MTV, Nickelodeon, BET (Black Entertainment Television) and 18 other youth-oriented Viacom TV channels.

Called "Get Schooled: You Have the Right" and airing as a new U.S. school year starts, the program formally kicks off a five-year national initiative developed by Viacom and the Foundation set up by Microsoft chairman Gates to address the challenges facing American education.

Noting that only about half the U.S. population had graduated from high school, President Barack Obama urged Americans last month to pursue higher education to boost the numbers of highly-skilled workers in the future.

"Far too many people enter adulthood unprepared for college, career and life," said Allan Golston, president of the U.S. program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Changing this reality requires the full engagement of the corporate and nonprofit communities, working harder to support students, families and schools to create an expectation in every community that a college education is possible for all young people," Golston said in a statement.

Gates famously dropped out of Harvard more than 30 years ago to focus on Microsoft, and Clarkson and James both skipped college to focus on their careers.

But the two music and sports idols will talk about key educators in their lives who helped them succeed, organizers said.

"I know first hand how important it is for young people to have role models who can inspire them about the importance of education and help them make good choices that will provide them with the tools to succeed," James said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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