09/18/2013 02:44 EDT | Updated 11/18/2013 05:12 EST

Magic Johnson, rapper Common launch effort aimed at helping dropouts graduate high school

CHICAGO - Earvin "Magic" Johnson is getting a little help from Chicago rapper Common for his newest off-court endeavour.

The former NBA star launched his "Friends of Magic" initiative Wednesday. The idea is to help at-risk students, including dropouts, graduate from high school.

Johnson, Common and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn attended the event at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Chicago, an education facility backed in part by Johnson's business enterprises.

An emotional Johnson spoke after listening to one of the students who has had success in the academy's education programs.

Wiping away tears, Johnson said he's trying to give back and felt gratified by his organization's work. Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy contracts with Chicago Public Schools to help dropouts.

Common is a Grammy-winning artist and actor.