2016-12-20

By: Zoe Jones, 2016-2017 AmeriCorps member, Mound STEM school
 
PITW #98 “All People - Especially Young People - Need the Same Eight things. Meaning, adventure, community, power, structure, challenge and opportunity.”
 

City Year AmeriCorps members at Mound STEM School in Cleveland’s Slavic Village have been offering the after school program, Hip Hop Academy to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for the first time this school year. In the afterschool space, City Year AmeriCorps members use the new program to present topics of art, social justice issues, and literacy through the lens of hip hop, to include current artists, new trends, and the history of hip hop.

So far this year, students and AmeriCorps members have talked about both new and old hip hop artists, the different types of musical styles within hip hop, contemporary African-American visual artists, and a range of social justice issues. Highlights of the year so far include discussions on how J-Zay and other hip hop artists are not only rappers but also extremely successful entrepreneurs and what it means to be a lyrical rapper. AmeriCorps members have contributed to student discussions on current issues that relate to the music and artists students are most passionate about. The goal has been to find common ground with students, but also to challenge them to think critically about what the music is reflecting in society. Within meeting spaces AmeriCorps members have also been interjecting City Year culture, teaching students about various City Year values, how to campfire spaces (to leave it in a better state than you found it), and ending every meeting with a spirit break. Not only have the AmeriCorps members at Mound worked to present the students with material that is engaging and insightful, students are challenged in the space. Students are pushed out of their comfort zone and are expected to participate in each and every discussion. 

The leaders of Hip Hop Academy recognize that hip hop and the culture around it encompasses so much more than just music; it is also about creativity and expression. Because of this the students who participate in Hip Hop Academy set goals and develop their leadership skills by working to plan an all school Black History Month Showcase for the end of February. AmeriCorps members want the student’s participation in Hip Hop Academy to develop into something concrete that they not only can be held accountable for but can also be proud of achieving. The ability to work on a project they are interested in and to truly see it come to fruition will help our students improve in the classroom and beyond.

The Black History Month Showcase will include step, original rap music and spoken word pieces all created and performed by Mound STEM students. Along with the student performances, outside organizations from universities and other community organizations will present dancers and other engaging speakers. The showcase will take place during school hours, offering a celebration of Black History Month to all the students. The opportunity to organize and create this event will be a new and challenging experience for the students, but the students will have the opportunity to create something inspiring and engaging that they will be proud to share with their classmates.

Planning has just begun for the event, but AmeriCorps members are excited for the opportunity to further engage with the students outside of the classroom, push them to be their absolute best self, and to do everything they can to help them set and reach their goals. 

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