Rapper and writer Common traces his talent for writing music, speeches and poetry back to the book reports that his mother made him do in elementary school.
Education, he believes, laid the foundation for his successful career.
"Education has been one of the greatest resources for me in my life," he said. "It really paid off."
The Oscar and Grammy winner said he was fortunate to grow up in a family that prioritized education. His mother, Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines, was a former principal in the Chicago Public Schools system for 17 years.
"GMA" is spotlighting the stories of first-generation students. Explore our full coverage.
Common's message to first-gen students
Common, a graduate from Florida A&M University, shared an inspirational message for our GMA First-Gen series to students who are the first in their families to go to college to push forward.
"Keep going, keep excelling, you have achieved something that is great by reaching college, but continue the journey and make sure you are pursuing something you are passionate about," said Common.
The college experience for all students, including first-generation students, will have its share of obstacles, he said, but they are all surmountable if you have the right perspective.
Each struggle creates progress.
"To students who are struggling," he said, "No matter where you go, there are always going to be some challenges. There's always going to be some struggles. The people you see out there shining, they still have been through struggles, they still will go through struggles."
"[Look] at those struggles as what you can learn. ... How can you change that into a positive? Each struggle creates progress," he added.
Common partnered with Burlington Stores through AdopotAClassroom.org to donate $10,000 to P.S. 111, a public school in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.
"We felt that the $10,000 would really help these teachers who have put so much time and energy and actually spent their own money to support and get supplies," he added.