- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Atlanta-based rapper, actor and reality television star Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. on Wednesday received the key to the city of Jackson after encouraging crowds of students at several schools to get as much education as they can.

Harris’ message: Avoid making the mistakes that he once made. He saluted students at Forest Hill High School and told them that going to school “isn’t just wasted hours but an investment in your future.”

“There is no easy way; you have to work hard and to prepare yourself,” T.I said.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/1pdzGfK ) Mayor Tony Yarber presented the key to the city to Harris and said the rapper would have more of an impact on young people in encouraging them to stay away from crime.

During the key presentation on the steps of City Hall, T.I. said he was “flattered, honored and humbled by this gracious gesture” and acknowledged that not everyone would be happy with him getting the recognition.

“I’m sure there’s been some adverse opinions about the choice to bless me with this honor,” he said.

“I can’t really change everyone’s opinion. But I can change me,” he said to rousing applause.

“Just knowing that I can use my experiences, just knowing that I can use my past - the good and bad - to help assist the future, the children, the teenagers, the young adults and the grown people who may have gone through some things and they can have an example showing just because I fell down don’t mean I have to stay down.

“I’ve learned that doing the same thing you’ve always done will only get you the same thing you’ve already got. If you want something different you must do something different.”

T.I. served about seven months in federal prison in 2009 for trying to buy unregistered guns and silencers from undercover federal agents. Harris has said that he was trying to purchase weapons after his best friend was killed in Cincinnati. Harris said he was the target of the shots that killed his friend.

He was on probation after he was released and ordered not to commit another crime or to illegally possess any controlled substances. In September 2010, he was arrested in Los Angeles on drug charges after authorities said he was found with four ecstasy pills. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison for that violation.

T.I.’s songs include “Castle Walls,” ”Like That,” ”No Mercy,” ”Whatever You Like,” and “What You Know.”

He appeared in the movie American Gangster with Denzel Washington and starred in “ATL” and “Takers.” He and his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, also star in the VH1 series “T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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