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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jon Bon Jovi took a break from his worldwide concerts to engage in a different kind of tour — listening to the concerns of young people across the United States.
The rocker visited a youth services center in New Jersey’s largest city on Monday as the final stop on a “listening tour with disengaged youth,” which previously made stops in New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston.
The initiative is part of the New Jersey native’s role as a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, which is looking at successful youth programs that can be replicated.
“I’m a big believer in the youth,” Bon Jovi said. “And this was an opportunity to be heard, while I was listening.”
The council plans to report its findings and recommendations to the Obama administration, which cites the statistic that less than half of young Americans have the education, skill and training to compete in the workforce by age 25.
Participants in the Newark session told Bon Jovi that jobs, a lack of mentors for young people and bullying were among their top concerns.
Robert Barr, a 23-year-old who attended a fatherhood training program at the center and now mentors others, was in the group that met with the rock star. Barr said he urged Bon Jovi to tell White House officials that more mentoring and after-school programs were needed.
“Sometimes, home is the worst place for somebody who is troubled,” Barr said, adding, “You need these programs to keep people off of the streets.”
Bon Jovi’s rock band has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and boasts international hits including “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “It’s My Life.” Despite its success and current sold-out world tour, the lead singer has always made time for philanthropy.
The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has contributed to projects from a shelter for homeless youth in Philadelphia and affordable housing in Newark, to a restaurant he’s helping build in Red Bank where those who can afford to pay for food will and those who can’t can volunteer in the kitchen or help other charities.
Bon Jovi, who said he was flying to Europe on Monday night to resume his concert tour, said he felt his visit to Newark to hear from young people was just as important as his work in music.
“I get great pleasure, pride and joy in giving back,” Bon Jovi said. “I’m very proud to be part of this president’s council, and just to underscore, it’s not political, but I really feel at 50 years old, I should do other things than sing in a rock n’ roll band.”