Officials paid singer Ashanti $20,000 for her June 1 appearance at Atlantic City High School.

The 2003 Grammy winner led assemblies, met privately with a group of middle school students and did an interview with the high school's radio station.

School officials say she did far more than the usual paid guest,  delivering  a positive message to students, encouraging them to build a support network of friends & family and to stay in school. Ashanti is also a Youth Ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club of America, and she met with students in the local club’s Champions of Youth program while at the high school.


Money to pay the performer came from funds in a district budget account designated for the improvement of instructional services.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Donna Haye tells The Press of Atlantic City for special events and officials saw the singer's appearance as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

While there was much support for Ashanti's visit, there were some who would like to see that same money spent supporting local residents to work with students. Galloway Township resident Marte King, an author and youth mentor who had spent almost 10 years in prison, told a special board meeting he would like to get board support for a  writing and mentoring program for students.
Ashanti was in Atlantic City for the city's multi-cultural festival. The city did not pay any of the performers who
participated in the "R&B Gone But Not Forgotten" tribute.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.