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The Cos doesn’t mince words when it comes to the nation’s high school dropout crisis.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby told staffers from Boys & Girls Clubs of America gathered for a conference in Atlanta on Thursday that it’s everyone’s responsibility to reach out to struggling kids. Cosby, himself a high school dropout, attributed his rise above his inner-city Philadelphia roots , and his return to school to get his GED and, eventually, his doctorate in education , to adults in his life pushing him to do better.

“I was the kind of kid who needed people to sit on me and be there all the time, people to say ‘This is not acceptable,'” said Cosby, wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

Cosby appeared with Harvard University psychiatry professor Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint. The duo co-authored the 2007 best-selling “Come on, People,” a book on the state of black families in the United States.

The two urged the 2,000 volunteers and workers for Boys & Girls Clubs from across the country to dig deeper than the anger that many community center workers see on the faces of poor children. Cosby said it’s up to teachers, school counselors, coaches and mentors to find out what’s happening in the child’s home, whether it be as serious as domestic violence or sexual abuse in their homes or as simple as a lack of parental involvement.

“What we’re talking about is what’s in here with these children,” Cosby said, pointing to his chest. “We’ve got to understand these things.”

Cosby is best known as the star and producer of the popular 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” His face is synonymous with Jell-O snack commercials.

More recently, he has drawn criticism for his blunt remarks on personal responsibility in the black community and made headlines in 2004 for chiding some poor black people for their grammar.

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