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How John Lennon and Yoko Ono Inspired Lady Gaga’s Latest Charity Efforts

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When it comes to being socially conscious, Lady Gaga cites two idols as inspiration.

“I was actually always a very big fan of Yoko Ono and also her work with her late husband John Lennon, and when they made peace statements together, they were very simple; they would say things like, ‘Give peace a chance,’ and the press would say, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ and they’d say, ‘That’s what we mean — just give it a chance,'” says Gaga, 31. “We’re asking people to give kindness a chance.”

Indeed, the “Million Reasons” singer — who runs the Born This Way Foundation with her mom, Cynthia Germanotta — has teamed up with Staples for Students, which is donating $1 million each to the BTW Foundation and DonorsChoose.org to promote positivity in school.

On June 16, Gaga met with students at Walter Reed Middle School in Hollywood to discuss their everyday challenges in the classroom.

Madison + vine/Staples

“They came in all shapes and sizes, with different academic heights, and there were kids with disabilities,” the Grammy winner says of her visit. “It was extraordinary to look each other in the eye, hear what they needed: ‘I need to be accepted; I want to feel supported; I want the classroom to be more like this or that because I was born this way.’ It was really powerful.”

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For more on Lady Gaga’s charitable contributions, pick up the latest issue on PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

A fierce LGBTQ advocate and proponent for equality and acceptance, Gaga says the experience has made her feel more empowered to make a difference.

“Everyone can go on about how the world needs to be a better place, that we’re in a very negative time — but this starts in the classroom,” says Gaga. “The world becomes better when people are kind.”