Austin Mahone, Will.i.am Talk Educational Inspirations at 'Think It Up'

Austin Mahone
Tracy Allison

Austin Mahone visits Billboard's New York offices on July 10, 2015.

School was back in session for J.K. SimmonsJoe ManganielloEric Stonestreetwill.i.am, Austin Mahone and Julie Chen, who touted Think It Up at the star-studded education initiative's red carpet Friday evening in Santa Monica.

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Helmed by the Entertainment Industry Foundation (the same brains behind Stand Up to Cancer), Think It Up seeks to improve public education in America through inspiring teacher-led and student-powered instruction. The one-hour live telecast -- which also included stars like Scarlett JohanssonHalle BerryGwyneth PaltrowMatthew McConaugheyStephen ColbertJeremy Renner and Justin Timberlake -- was broadcast on NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS simultaneously.

In support of the initiative, several stars on the red carpet talked about where their passion for education comes from. For Terry Crews, being a parent to five young children is when he started realizing the impact of education.

“I have five kids. When you start to see the light turn on, it’s incredible,” Crews said. “Because there are nights when you see them frustrated wondering how they’re going to get this problem, but once they see it and they get it, you realize their life has changed forever.”

As a mother of a 5-year-old son, Chen also shares a similar sentiment to Crews; however, the CBS host revealed that growing up with immigrant parents is what really instilled her respect for education.

“Growing up as the youngest of three girls, daughter of immigrants from China and Burma, education is everything to me,” Chen told The Hollywood Reporter. “My parents came to this country so we could get an education, and it was stress from the minute we could crawl. ‘You’re going to do well in school and you’re going to make something out of yourself. That’s why we came to this country.’ I knew no other way.”

Similar to Chen, Mahone also adopted a respect for education while growing up with a single mother.

“I spent half of my school years being in public school and then half home school. So my mom definitely inspired me to finish high school and get out there,” Mahone said.

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Coming from a family of teachers, Simmons developed his passion for academia from being surrounded by educators.

“I come from a family of educators. My sister is a college teacher. My dad is a college teacher, but first a junior high teacher,” Simmons said. “Education is very important to me. Teaching is in my blood.”

With his mother and uncle as teachers, will.i.am also found himself surrounded by educators while growing up. However, the Black Eyed Peas member noted a particular elementary school teacher who was influential to him pursuing music.

“There’s a teacher by the name of Ms. Montez who encouraged me to continue in the arts. That’s why I’m an artist today. I thank Ms. Montez for her encouragement,” will.i.am told THR moments before frequent collaborator Justin Bieber stealthily jumped the red carpet’s barrier to quickly embrace the hip-hop artist before heading inside to perform.

Other A-list attendees included Jessica BielJennifer GarnerRyan SeacrestBig Sean and Kristen Bell

This article originally appeared on THR.com.

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