He’s already a one-name superstar, but Usher got a new handle from the 126 underserved kids at his Atlanta summer camp: Mr. Make-It-Happen. It’s a suitable nickname for the singer, 29, who started the New Look foundation (ushersnew look.org) in 1999 and lined up sponsors like Tiffany & Co.—and speakers from the sports and entertainment worlds—to run the two-week Camp New Look at no charge to the 12-to-17-year-olds. Usher—who has an 8-month-old son, Usher V (a.k.a. “Cinco”), with his wife, Tameka—spoke with PEOPLE’s Michelle Tauber.
What inspired you to start a camp?
With everything I’ve done with business and entertainment, I felt like there was something I could do for these kids, leaving them inspired. Letting them know, “You know what? I can do something. I can be something.”
Is there one business principle you’ve learned that you’re passing on to your moguls in training?
The easiest one is, “If it don’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense!” But more than anything: be quick to listen, slow to speak. You never know when you’ll learn the lesson that’s going to open up many doors.
Tell me about the “I’m just family” speech you give the kids.
I’m like a big brother, an uncle, a friend. We really hope to instill a sense of family. A lot of these kids come from broken homes and haven’t had that. And when they leave it’s like, “Wow, somebody really cares about me. Somebody took the time to sit down and teach me something.”
How has fatherhood helped inspire you to give back?
Having a child just completed the story. I already had a giving heart, and I wanted to do something to mentor children. Places like the Boys & Girls Club had done that for me.
Your 30th birthday is coming up in October. Excited?
That’s something to embrace. I’m so proud to be a father by the time I’m 30. I’d hate to be 80 years old and not be able to run with my kids. I need to still be able to do flips when they’re in high school!
Sounds like Cinco will be flipping in no time …
Aw yeah—he’s already trying right now! He’s a pull-up master.