Judge Greg Mathis, best known for the reality-based court TV show, Judge Mathis, has agreed to appear at the 17th annual Black College Expo, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday, Feb. 6.
“I am interested in young people overcoming the obstacles in their lives,” Mathis says. “I want to help prepare them to compete and take advantage of opportunities that will come their way after they’ve overcome barriers.”
Mathis understands that to compete today, higher education is needed. “You will not ‘outcompete’ your peers without a quality education beyond high school, whether that’s college or a trade school,” he says.
Clearly, higher education made a huge difference in the judge’s own life. A former Detroit-area District Court Judge, Judge Mathis hands down decisions on TV—the show is in its 17th season and airs weekdays (check your local listing)—that are legal and binding. One doesn’t get to be a judge with just a high school diploma—interestingly, a credential that the esteemed judge does not hold.
As a child, Mathis attended a Seventh-day Adventist church elementary school. His downward spiral started in 8th grade when he began attending public school. He dropped out in the 11th grade, never earning a high school diploma.
“Nine months before entering Eastern Michigan University I had been incarcerated as a 17-year-old and tried as an adult,” he says. After leaving the penal system, he earned a GED. But returning home to the same crime- and drug-infested neighborhood where he’d fallen in with the wrong crowd led to negative peer pressure and the temptation to yield to it.
“Thank God I was able to withstand it,” the judge now says. “Through affirmative action, I was accepted to Eastern Michigan, and there the peer pressure was to compete. There were no thugs at college to hang with.”
That’s why he’s an education advocate today. “The community work I do involves helping African American youth go to college,” he says. He chairs a Rainbow PUSH Excel Division which provides black college tours to potential students; he also serves on the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which connects young people to scholarships and internships.
The Black College Expo, produced by the National College Resources Foundation, has announced that it will include an internship and career component at each of its expos. About 100 colleges and educational programs are expected to be on-site, and some schools are offering on-site acceptances, plus waived college application fees and on-the-spot scholarships.
“I’m excited to collaborate with the Black College Expo,” Mathis says. “I know firsthand the struggles of pursuing an education and look forward to encouraging students to unlock their fullest potential through higher education.”
For more information, go to the website of the National College Resources Foundation.