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Why Mark Wahlberg is telling kids (and adults) to go back to school

Actor Mark Wahlberg in Toronto on Dec. 4, 2012

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Now that he's finally graduated from high school, Mark Wahlberg has partnered with Taco Bell to encourage other slacker students to do the same.

The 42-year-old actor, who dropped out of Boston's Copley Square High School in the ninth grade, recently penned an essay for The Huffington Post explaining how he obtained his diploma after completing an Internet study course this past summer.

"For almost a year, I've been taking classes and studying any chance I could get," said Wahlberg. "It has been both humbling and challenging."

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Now the Boogie Nights star's charity, The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, has teamed with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens toward the cause of helping other adults complete their education online.

Appearing at an event at Taco Bell's headquarters this week, Wahlberg said that leaving school prematurely was the biggest mistake of his life. "I was lucky, but a lot of my friends who did the same ended up incarcerated or dead."

Wahlberg also pointed out to his fellow dropouts that high-school grads in the U.S. should expect to earn a lifetime average of $200,000 more than those who did not receive their diploma.

"To those students struggling every day and most importantly to those who are looking for a second chance, I have a message for you: Never give up. Keep believing in yourselves and don't make small plans," said Wahlberg.

And although Wahlberg makes an estimated $10– to $15-million US per picture these days (up next is the military thriller Lone Survivor), he insists the real reason he earned his diploma was to provide an example to his four young children.

"I can now look at my kids every day knowing that I didn't just do this for me," he said. "I did it for them, and I did it for all the other teens and adults who have inspired me by their commitment to graduate. If we don't live by example, then what do we live by?"

See? He's already smarter.

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