Cause Celeb

Can star power create social change?


Celeb: Lauryn Hill, hip-hop, reggae, and R&B artist

Cause: The Refugee Project (TRP), an outreach program for at-risk urban youths from New York and New Jersey

What she’s done: Hill founded TRP in 1996 and serves as chair of the board of directors. She also made an appearance at the August 1998 Camp Hill, a two-week recreational camp in the Catskill Mountains for kids between 10 and 13 years old.

What celeb gets: Spiritual fulfillment and publicity

What cause gets: Camp Hill, a mentorship program, a reading club, and an annual Halloween party, not to mention support from such superstar trustees as Sean “Puffy” Combs, Cornel West, and Spike Lee

Connection between celeb and cause: Hill grew up in a working-class section of South Orange, N.J., and knows from personal experience that dead-end inertia can be overcome.

Chance celeb will humiliate cause: Slim. Hill is known to be dedicated and socially aware. Plus, the kids love her.

What good came of this? More than 100 urban kids got the chance to escape to the Catskills. Says one of the camp’s sponsors: “[It gave] kids a great opportunity to get out into the country, and to learn skills through a structured curriculum of seminars in music, accounting, and marketing.”