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Dear Rachel,

This is an open letter to you and all the young people in this country who, through no fault of your own, find yourself living in under-served communities and not yet figuring out your way in this world.

There is hope. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do and who you cannot be, or better yet… become.  And whether you believe it or not, the key is education. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s something that will make you a contender for opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be considered for.

Yes, of course there are a lot of high school, college and even post graduate grads out here who are having trouble finding jobs. But statistics bear out that people with high school diplomas and GEDs do better than those without. And people with college degrees do better than people without them, even during a recession.

But it isn’t only the diploma and degree itself. It’s the sense of accomplishment, your ability to stay with something and follow it through to completion, the people you will meet, and the lasting friendships you will make all come into play.

Learning a trade or becoming an entrepreneur are also good options. All I ask is that you think about your future  and ways to ensure that you’re happy, healthy and productive.

The Tom Joyner Foundation for years has invested in students who may have everything but the financial resources to complete their college education. And even though I leapt out there without getting permission from the president, my son Thomas Joyner Jr., I promise to make good on my offer to you, Rachel. Like so many others, I was touched by you too and even though I wanted to give you a big hug, I realized a hug wasn’t enough. My mom did a good job at teaching us to give back and she’s the reason we started the Tom Joyner Foundation in the first place.

We are committed to meeting you where you are, helping you to get your GED and prepping you for the historically black college or university of your choice. It’s not going to happen overnight, but what true success story really does? The only thing I ask in return is that you reach out and try to make a difference in someone’s life as well.

Time and time again, we watch our young people get written off, tossed aside or put at the end of the line because no one wants to give them a chance.

If you’re reading this letter and you’ve gotten a second chance at life, let me hear from you. I think it would be great for Rachel and other young people to hear about your journey.

So big hugs and lots of hope!


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54 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Rachel Jeantel

  1. Jiggy5 on said:

    TJ, thank you for not writing your open letter in cursive, don’t want to challenge our college bound protege too much. Tell you what Peeps, let’s have TJ give us a status update on this project in Fall of 2014 to see what progress has been made. Sound fair?

  2. Dear Tom,
    I am curious as to why an open letter was necessary. Your tone appeared both condescending and patronizing without providing a broader context. With the speed of communication, I am certain that there were other venues through which you could have expressed your sincerity and concern for Ms. Jeantel, other than an Open Letter. Next time you want to provide good counsel, may I suggest you pick up the phone. I am sure Ms. Jeantel would appreciate it.

  3. The letter shows the current living status of the young generation. It also tells us how we can overcome the problems associated with the young stars. I think people should realize the importance of such informative articles. The blogger has tried to wake the young generation up and make them responsible about their duties.

  4. Tom,
    You and so many others have had the nerve to trust your own ability and you have done well. Some cry about other people, usually of other ethnic groups, not giving them work. I am Autodidact, am retired from my own business and received medical retirement while working for Sears in Chatswoth, California after retiring from my plumbing businesses in Oakland and Los Angeles areas. I want to recruit and set up 200,000 couples and single persons free Autodidactic Legal Office Clerical Training and Direct Marketing, the business that earns equal to doctors when done correctly. No book purchases required. 5 Week Entry Level Work Ready Courses. See you at

    Jimmie Walk

  5. It’s a shame that young, hard-working black high school seniors are still trying to gather every possible grant, scholarship, and loan to attend college while the lazy Rachel Jeantel gets a free pass.

  6. Is there really power in numbers, can word of mouth through social networks breed change? I have more than 600 Facebook friends, one fourth of those I have never met. We game together, give lives, send energy or visit daily to help each other progress. We don’t share the same political views, nor do we agree on issues facing the United States and abroad. One thing is certain we are all impacted by the Stand Your Ground law. Currently 21-24 states have self defense laws like Florida. While I do not oppose that law I do believe that George Zimmerman hid behind it. The law states he did not have to retreat, he also did not have to pursue! This debate can continue until we are blue in the face and we may never see eye to eye as in the O.J. Simpson case. The glove didn’t fit, a jury of his peers had to acquit and O.J. walked around like he was the shit. Many in our race celebrated that verdict, some even professed that a black man had finally gotten away with murder. Karma caught up with Orenthal James and it will do the same with George Zimmerman. There no longer appears to be honor among men, those that don’t have…feel entitled and TAKE what they want. Women and children used to be exempt, now it’s open season. I do not have children and would not have children in this world that we live in. I plan to take a C.C.W. class to protect myself and my household. No one should fear riding a bike in a neighborhood they pay taxes in. What we have to do now is heal, enact a way to make change throughout every community in every state. Start with the person in the mirror and stop pointing fingers. Trayvon Martin’s death will not be in vain because it raised our awareness factor. The number of black men we lose each year is staggering, we can continue to place blame but the root starts at home. In our own village grown folks ostracize the children, we tarnished those medals because we disapproved of her KINKY hair. Yet we fire up a petition when a school district wants to ban braids and afro puffs. We made a mockery of the way that young lady articulated herself during the trial. Yet when Tom Joyner reached out to help her we sing praises. (Thank you Mr. Joyner) We blast Bill Cosby for calling us out on our names, tattoos, clothes, and rhetoric. Now ask yourself, is he making it up? How does leaving one vowel out of a txt message make it faster, then you wonder why your children can’t spell or read cursive. I have known my purpose in life since I was editor of my senior yearbook. I am a writer, my purpose is to make people think…so here is some food for thought. Over 100 U.S. Cities have staged protests. There are petitions calling for Boycotts of Florida, and the Koch Brothers who funded Zimmerman’s defense. I looked at the list of those 8 products and realized WE funded his defense. These items are always on sale at Family Dollar and there is a Family Dollar in every neighborhood! We march as if that is the only way to be heard. When will we realize actions speak louder than words? Those individuals who did not ask to be role models yet leave impressions on our youth because they “woke up in a new Bugatti”. I challenge every black person with the means to make a difference to be a vessel for change. If you speak on “making it rain” and how you have money to blow, be a soldier. You want to make paper…make toilet paper!! Give our people something to patronize instead of boycott! It’s a lot easier to remember one product to support, than eight to shut down. Strong Yet Gentle Paper Products. God gave me this vision, I’m giving you the blueprint. Who will be the architect?

    Stand Your Ground

  7. Vida on said:

    I thank God that someone has taken there time to care about this young woman. GOD has but this young lady in this situation for a great out come. I have grown children now and in my community I was told my daughter should not go to a school were she received the same education as others,my daughter deserved a great education also. Rachel take your great opportunity and be blessed with it, please do not listen to no one that has negative comments stay positive and become another educated woman. Everyone has made mistakes in life that was turned around and you can enpower other young ladies with your story. Mr. J thank you for caring for this young life. Rachel is not just a drug addict she is one of God creations.

    • A lot of people in your circle, may have thought you were stupid, prior to your post. Now, that thought has been solidified into a fact. I am sure you consider yourself to be superior. That’s the real knee slapper.

  8. Why are we as black people making so many excuses for Rachel? How low have we lowered the bar, do we not expect anything from the young. My goodness I had no idea that we expected so little for our kids. I fought in war with 19 year old kids, they were trying to earn money for college, they were not at home smoking dope dropping out of school. Yes I know she had some medical issue that cause her to drop out of school I guess that same condition cause her to smoke dope too. I see the comments here and I see why we as people are where we are. You cannot help anyone who does not want to be help; you think she could not get a high school education because of trayvon death, if you believe that I bet you probably believe that she will get a college education too. There are way too many hard working kids out there doing the right thing and trying with their all to make it in college right now, they are not home smoking dope, having babies, getting in trouble and not being an embarrassment to their race. I wonder how many of you would let your kids hang out with Rachel , how many of you would let her baby sit your kids , how many of you think she represented the black youth of today , by supporting her and not addressing the obvious issue that’s exactly what you are saying. I am extremely upset with the verdict of that and there is no doubt in my mind she contributed hugely to the perception of the kind of person trayvon was and those people didn’t like her as we all heard from the juror. Have any of you even wonder why out of all the witness why she is the only on TV , have any of you even figured why they have been putting her all over the news , why she is even famous , some of you don’t even get , you haven’t even ask that question. I say to tom save the education for a child that deserves it, someone who has worked for it, if he has run out of kids that need help I can point him in the right direction of plenty who need the help who deserve to not be saddle with student dub for the rest of their life.

    • Tom has had the foundation going for decades so how many deserving kids do you think that he has helped? Brothers like you that kick us in the teeth while we are down are our problem. And a situation like this is the perfect opportunity for the Lord to show His strength in our weakness.

      • Tyrone, I am sorry if I have offended you that was not the intent, nor are kicking anyone while they are down, I do not know if you are old or young but in time you will learn how and why a person is down is just as important as the will to help someone. Before I wrote any comment about Rachel I did what limited research there is about her. It’s a mistake to elevate this women to a representation on black youth, I have been in trenches and we as black people can pretend to act like we don’t know what the problem is but one thing I can say if anyone can kick and hit you in your teeth then I would have to wonder what are you doing down there. I have zero tolerance for drugs and we as black should have that for all of our kids but Rachel sits on TV talks about the use of drugs as if it’s not a big deal and that’s not even talked about , instead we offer her a scholarship like it’s no big deal. I know far too many young hard working blacks saddle with student loan debt who has earned the generosity and deserving hand of others such as Tom. I for one am tired of direction that our future generations are heading, all I have been reading is excuses for Rachel, blaming everything around her which is something we as people have been doing for far too long. Drugs, babies, bling , tattoos and a host of other obstacles that are young have put before themselves even though most blacks have already been born with a disadvantage of making it and being successful in the real world. Tyrone believe it or not its not about blaming anyone else , nobody can kick you in your teeth if you are not already down on your knees.

      • I am 47 years old, not that my age should make a difference. True, there are people that do not want to do anything for themselves and never will, but society as a whole is taking a downward turn, and if you work in the trenches as you say, you would know that Rachel DOES represent a segment of our youth that not only have been raised in a lacking environment but also have to depend on an inferior educational system that stymies their chances of EVER making it. I saw Rachel accept Tom’s offer. She seemed extremely grateful and I am beyond anxious to see God do His work and show what He is truly about.

      • Jiggy5 on said:

        Lets be realistic Peeps, chances of Rachael graduating college or becoming a baby’s momma? I will gladly give 50:1 odds against her matriculating. That’ $50 won for every $1 bet. Takers?

  9. Kan Hoveka on said:

    Mr. Joyner you brought tears to my eyes and such joy in my heart may God be with you. And as for you Ms Jeantel keep your head high an Angel reached to you.

  10. Ruby McDaniel on said:

    Tom Joyner you are a blessing to our communities across this nation. You are one celebrity who puts his money where his mouth is. May you continue to do good. Ms. Jeantel needs a helping hand. I hope she takes advantage of your offer. Beyond the money, she will need additional help to stay in school. I hope there will be others who will step up to the plate and assist her in melding into the college culture, tutor her and be her friend. Mr. Joyner you are to be commended.

  11. Shirley Simmons on said:

    What you are doing is fabulous! I think Racheal deserves it so much and needs it to move forward in a positive way. I am a college graduate who went to a school on a scholarship because they needed Black students to get federal money. It was not a pleasant experience,but I came out of school with very little debt.The chance to go to a HBCU is priceless for the education and for the long lasting relationships formed while in school. I applaud you Brother Joyner!

  12. Moiselle999 on said:

    THANK YOU TOM JOYNER FOR putting Don West in his place. Maybe Rachel Jeantel will graduate college with 2 or 3 more languages under her belt, along with the 3 she now speaks. Ignorance Mr. West?
    Really? Seriously? Who opens a Murder Trial with knock, knock…who’s there? That’s ignorance!

  13. Why don’t you reward Temar Boggs who chased a car after kidnapping a WHITE GIRL, this is a real hero who should be acknowledge and rewarded. You can do what you want with your money but it just shows your just feeding into the media scam of a story.

    • FIFTY AND PHUNE on said:

      Fred since you are taking about crimes that black people commit against white people but no you are not a racist. Why don’t white folks take responsibility for the following crimes against black people

      1. Slavery
      2. Emmitt Till
      3. Those 5 guys the Central Park Jogger said who raped her
      4. The black guy who shot a white guy who came to his home at 2:am to fight his son. Serving 15 years for Standing His Ground on his own property
      5. Scottsboro boys
      6. Stealing our style and music. Especially Micheal Bolton

      I could go on but I don’t have all night.

      • Jiggy5 on said:

        At least have a clue about history, slavery was started by Europeans and Blacks, yes Blacks.

  14. popo on said:

    1. Alleged Crime takes place
    2. Attorneys representing both sides
    3. Evidence and facts during court
    4. Jury of peers selected by both sides
    5. Verdict
    6. Don’t live verdict
    7. Want another chance to convict
    8. Get a life

    • MisterAnthonyon on said:

      I’m sure you mean well. But check out some history regarding all white juries. Merger Evers, Emit Till, Rodney King to name a few. America has an illness called prejudice. Even if you’re not aware of it, you’ve been brainwashed to think all verdicts are fair as long as it doesn’t hurt you. You think “those people” think somebody owes them something. Never mind the fact that their harassed daily by bad cops, disrespected on a daily basis based on something as trivial as color. Why not try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment? Whether the verdict is right or not (nobody really knows what happened) have the decency to show respect for a dead unarmed teen who did nothing but walk home from the corner store and was accosted and shot dead by a grown man packing a Glock!! Remember Zimmerman’s words minutes before the shooting? “Those f—in bast—they always get away! What do you think his next thought was? Fill in the blanks. How about “Not this time, I got this!!”

  15. billie on said:

    Thanks tj we need more ppl like u to reach down n help our young folks so many have so much they can offer our young folks but will not step out GOD bless you!

  16. Marv Reid on said:

    Unlike many who criticized this courageous young woman, I believe she did an admiral job under very trying circumstances. Her affect aside, it was clear the defense used her naivete as well as her lack of understanding of the criminal justice system to portray her as ignorant. It did not help that for days after our own community went after her as if she was the one on trial. Bad move. Mr. Joyner, your offer of assisting Ms. Jeantel furthering her education is excellent. May God bless you and your continuing efforts in support of our young people, and the community at large.

  17. angie on said:

    im not black but come from unfortunate circumstance due to no fault of my own. Can you help me go to college? When did this become a race issue?? I’ll never understand.

    • Angie, it become a race issue when we were not allowed to attend institutions of higher learning and had to form our own. And with attitudes like yours, it’s very apparent that the need is still there.

    • Now, this is a story not worth being told. on said:

      Tatum, B.D. (1997). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? New York: Basic Books.
      Racism is a system of advantage based on race. And you have to ask yourself, who is advantaged by this
      system, and who is disadvantaged? In the U.S., it’s the white people who are advantaged. This is all about
      preparing kids for leadership in the 21st century. Everyone pays a price for racism. Racism harms white
      people as well as people of color, particularly in terms of the rising tide of fear and violence that exist when
      people don’t know how to cross racial boundaries.

  18. grace on said:

    I guess I am the only one who think that there are millions of more qualified applicants who would actually graduate instead of giving a handout to a 5th grade educated hoodrat who didn’t even attend Trayvon’s funeral.

    • Grace, I guess that you are the only one on here criticizing a man for doing what God called him to do. And the foundation was not started last week.

  19. Belinda Magee on said:

    I ‘he been loving you for a long time Mr. Joyner, ever since your disc jokey days here in Chicago. My love continues. 🙂 🙂 God bless you.

  20. Bless Rachel’s heart. I’m praying Miss Jeantel take advantage of this opportunity. Reach one, and she can lead many to the mountain called “HOPE!”

  21. Dennis C. Vaughn on said:

    Dear Mr. Joyner,

    One of these days you are going to need a very smart, down home country boy full of integrity and ready for bear to permanently fill a much needed void in your circle and I plan to be front and center with my hand extended to re-assure you that I am a man that got a second and a third chance at life. I thank my Father in heaven for working through you and your staff as you all exemplify so much love and compassion as real life stuff like this is being revealed to us every day. God bless you and your staff Mr. Joyner for bringing so much joy into the lives of so many people.

  22. bette covell on said:

    God bless you Tom Joyner for helping Rachel and others with their education. I am a retired teacher and know how important education is.

  23. J.R. Johnson on said:

    I commend you Tom Joyner on this great act of kindness. For we never know what a person is going through and why they could not finish their education. This is great because we need to reach out to people instead of making fun of someone that does not read or speak well. For we do not know her story or what she has been through but one thing I am going to say is it took courage for her to get on that stand and take the abuse that was verbally done to her. This will show her that there are those out there who really do care and want to help.. Bless you and bless Rachel as she is about to close a chapter and begin a new one as she makes her journey..

  24. Monica Williams on said:

    Mr. Joyner I am forever GRATEFUL, I Salute You Mr. Joyner…. I Thank God for placing individual’s of your caliber in the community to help those that are less fortunate and to direct them in the right path of LIFE! Thank you, Thank you , Thank you…. My time is shared between listening to you and Steve Harvey and I commend you Both!

    Much Love & Peace to you

  25. Debbie on said:

    Tom – many people ridiculed Ms. Jeantel, but you saw the need and are offering to do something about it. You are truly an example of someone that not only “talk the talk” but you are actually “walking the walk.” That is just awesome and I pray Ms. Jeantel take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and watch God prepare the table before her in the presence of her enemies (all those that laughed and made a joke out of her). Thank you for all you do to help our people advance in this unfair world. I have the nothing but love and respect for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

  26. I applaud Mr. Joyner for giving this young lady the assistance she needs to finish high school and attend college. When she testified at the trial people had all kind of negative and derogatory comments about her speech and the way she carried herself. But this is truly how change really happens, someone throws you a lifeline, whether you realize you need it or not, and it makes a difference in your life. Instead of criticizing others or laughing at them behind their backs, do something to affect a change. I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be if the staff at Detroit Central High School had not encourage me to get a degree. ‪#‎mythoughts

  27. Lashawna King on said:

    Rachel Jeantel, I will keep you in my prays God has something in life for you to give to some one else to help them .great job my sister.

  28. Let’s keep this momentum going and everyone that can afford it financially or physically put some time in with a young black child. Let the world know that our children are our pride and joy and they have a worth. Thanks Tom and to all of you that extend a hand to your fellow sisters and brothers.

  29. vickie isaac on said:

    People are commenting on Rachel Jeantel not being able to read cursive writing but no one mentioned the fact that public schools now do not teach cursive at all. Their focus is fcat. I had to tach my sons how to at least sign their name in cursive since it is no longer taught in schools.

  30. Carla Saturno Robinson on said:

    Mr. Joyner….You asked to reach out to you if I felt that I could be an inspiration to Rachel by my story, and I believe that I am?!!! I am 37 yrs. old. I am a single mother of a 15 yrs. mixed son. I am originally from Venezuela, South America, but came to this country when I was a small child. I spoke only Spanish at the time! All of my schooling was here, in America….My life has taken me on many whirlwinds, but I can tell you that I now work for the Los Angeles Fire Dept. I am one class short of my BA in Sociology. I take care of me and my son with no financial assistance from anyone. I have no parents. aunts, grandparents…It is just me, my sister (25), brother (Autistic/20), my son (15), and my niece (2)…I feel like I am the MATRIARCH of my family!! I COULD WRITE A BOOK, BUT WOULD LOVE TO SIMPLY TELL YOU MY STORY….Something I have never told anyone!!!!!! YOU ARE A BLESSING, AND I KNOW RACHEL WILL MAKE YOU PROUD!!!!!!

  31. alisun on said:

    All I can say to TJ is:THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for supporting this young lady, who I believe told the truth throughout this ordeal. Ms Jeantel, you have a lot of support out here–keep telling the truth, it will keep you free.

  32. the Timekeeper on said:

    True that. These things happen for a reason, and I believe Rachel is going to be somethng special down the road due to this experience. Oh, and by the way; while we are on the subject of Rachel Jeantel, anyone who has the audacity to disparage her in any way, shape or form, please be advised. Your words, actions and thoughts are exactly the reason why the Zimmermnan’s of thw world continue to get away with this bigoted nonsense.

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