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    Jennifer Lopez and Her New Leading Role to Help Kids

    Working with Boys & Girls Clubs, the superstar and 'Idol' judge gives back to those who helped her as a teen.

    The Boys & Girls Clubs' Mission continued...

    "We provide a safe place where children can learn and grow with adult mentors who love them and won't let them fail," says the clubs’ president and CEO, Roxanne Spillett. "Our vision is that every child who walks in our doors graduates from high school with a plan for the future. Our motto is 'Great futures start here,' and Jennifer is a beautiful example of that."

    As the clubs' new voice, Lopez says she encourages children to embrace "empowerment, determination, and passion. Those are the ingredients to fulfilling your dreams." Even more crucial? Learning to take care of yourself, the earlier the better, she says. "No matter how busy or how demanding your life is, you need to ensure you are both physically and mentally fit," says Lopez, who credits plenty of sleep and taking time "just to breathe and clear my mind" for her own sense of feeling centered. Then, and only then, she says, "can you be the best at what you are doing at the moment, working or even being a mother."

    Jennifer Lopez's Teen Years at the Boys & Girls Club

    Speaking of mothers, it was Lopez's mom, kindergarten teacher Guadalupe, who brought the then-14-year-old and her two sisters, Lynda and Leslie, to the Kips Bay club in 1983 when it opened to girls. The timing couldn't have been better: Boys & Girls Clubs alumnus and Ballet Hispanico dancer Larry Maldonado had just begun a performing arts program, recruiting colleagues to come to the South Bronx and teach everything from salsa to ballet.

    "Jen was immediately one of the more active members of our dance program," remembers Harold Maldonado Jr. -- brother of Larry (now deceased) -- who these days runs the Kips Bay club. "Every day she would say how much she looked forward to being with Larry to take dance classes, and she was always involved in teaching the younger students. One day, Larry said, 'Jen is going to make it,' and I said, 'All the kids are going to make it.' He said, 'Yes, but there's something special about her. She shows that certain potential.' She was very motivated."

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