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12/18/2006 11:38 PM ET

Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation entertains kids

Children enjoy private movie screening at Manhattan theater

Peter Zellen / Special

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NEW YORK -- There's no question what draws teenagers to volunteer for Derek Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

After all, Jeter is a star baseball player and role model, captain of the New York Yankees, handsome and polite -- a celebrity who has the appeal of a movie star and is the toast of the Big Apple.

That's what gets kids involved in the Foundation, yet it's not what keeps them there. Soon after they're accepted in the program, the group -- known as Jeter's Leaders -- is quick to understand the Turn 2 Foundation isn't about hanging out with Jeter.

Derek signs autographs at a Manhattan movie theater. (Shiho Fukada/

It's about making the right decisions in life and making a positive impact in the community.

"It's our mission statement and what we're here to represent," said Jaleesa Diaz, 15, of Thurgood Marshall Academy in upper Manhattan. "It's not about being around Derek, it's not about meeting Derek, it's about representing him and being able to do things [in the community]. Because he's one person, he can't get around so much to help, so we get to do that for him. We get to take the initiative.

"I think that Derek is a great person for what he does for the kids, so just representing him as a Leader is a wonderful thing for me, and I appreciate the experience."

On Monday night, Jeter and his Turn 2 Foundation treated busloads of more than 500 New York City schoolchildren to a private screening of "The Santa Clause 3" at a Manhattan movie theater. The children and members of Jeter's Leaders walked the red carpet, just like the Yankees star, in front of about a dozen photographers and television cameras -- complete with the flashes and the panache of a Hollywood movie premiere.

"This is all just great. It's about giving back to the community, and Derek has been pushing us to give back to the community and giving all the presents to these kids," said Jennifer Martin, 16, of the Bronx. "I think it's just a wonderful thing he's doing. It's just an amazing thing he does for these children."

The screening -- called the Turn 2 Holiday Express -- is one of the activities created by the Foundation to reward children involved in Turn 2's Signature Programs who are demonstrating positive behavior, academic excellence and leadership qualities in school and their communities.

"This is a fun time of year," said Jeter, who will be staying in New York through Christmas. "It's always nice to help out people, and this is the time of year to do it."

Turn 2's mission is to motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and turn to healthy lifestyles.

"I'm not really that much of an outspoken person and I'm very passive. This has allowed me to be more outspoken and get more involved in the community that I live in," said a quiet but confident Kendon Smith-Holder, 16, of the Thurgood Marshall Academy. "I'm not as nervous as I would be before I joined this program."

Jeter knows his fame is a big draw for those who want to get involved in the Turn 2 Foundation, but he makes sure the kids stay in the program for the right reasons. Every year, he sees a lot of these kids come out better than when they started with the Foundation.

"They should be commended for all the hard work and spreading the word," said Jeter, who stresses leadership most of all through the program. "They deserve all the credit."

Diaz is in her first year with Jeter's Leaders, and she was excited about the evening's festivities, which included loads of popcorn and treats as the children walked in the theater.

But she's also excited about the person she's become since starting her involvement with Turn 2.

"It's helped me to be a better person," Diaz said. "A leader is not just one person. A leader should be able to bring people up and not be afraid to fall down and bring them back up again."

Peter Zellen is a contributor to

Since its launch in 1996, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $23 million to create and support signature programs that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and "Turn 2" healthy lifestyles. Learn more »

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The Project is an event created to share one of the Foundation's principles with communities. Learn more »

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