By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Jarren Small, the Houston-based visionary, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, is proving that legends do live.
The Prairie View A & M University graduate named his nonprofit, “Legends Do Live,” which focuses on equipping and funding disadvantaged youth and communities through workshop programs and community engagement.
Small and his co-founder Douglas Johnson already have quite the track record, particularly with a popular program called “Reading With A Rapper (RWAR),” that has caught the attention of companies like Microsoft, and hip-hop icons like Meek Mill.
Now Small and Johnson are partnering with the iconic Beats By Dre, allowing the men an opportunity to provide quality resources for a new RWAR Digital program set to rollout this Fall.
“We are looking at doing a free beta phase of the program this summer in up to seven cities,” Small, who has formed relationships with mayors, members of Congress, school districts, and others, stated.
Initial rollout plans include multiple cities.
Reading With A Rapper was created to relate English Language Arts (ELA) with socially conscious lyrics, video content, and technology.
Small noted that through the platform, “we can relate and uplift our youth socially and academically to skills necessary to thrive in secondary and collegiate level courses.”
“We break down the lyrics to show the figurative language center structure in grammar and all through that song and you’re going through and you’re listening to it while you watch it and then the rapper comes in to talk about why it’s important to read,” Small explained.
“They get to understand why certain language is used and further the conversation. The program took off when we did 30,000 students between New Orleans, Atlanta, and Houston, and we closed a deal and have had some success working with Roc Nation and Thurgood Marshall Scholars from the My Brother’s Keeper Program.”
Small said one of the biggest pop-up events occurred when rapper Meek Mill agreed to participate.
“He was in town talking to boys who were on probation, and he came in and gave them Puma Reform Shoes,” Small recalled. “When I told him about it, he agreed to stay an extra day and he gave all the kids shoes and everyone was so excited.”
Teachers and educators everywhere have expressed excitement about the Reading With A Rapper program, Small said.
Creating lifelong readers will ensure and promote academic success through adulthood, according to Small and Douglas. The men point to statistics that reveal students in secondary education struggle to understand the basics of literature, which increases their disinterest in that important skill.
Further, more than 8,000 students quit high school every day, drastically limiting their potential and ability as strong members of the workforce.
“If a community is disadvantaged and we help to improve its educational system, more families and businesses will move there,” Small said.
Reading With A Rapper is an 8-week program designed to involve students in an interactive learning experience with relatable innovative tools and metrics, Small wrote on his website.
Using the local school district’s digital platform, students receive digital assignments from RWAR that correlates with common core English Language Arts and Reading standards.
This, Small offered, engages students using relatable elements.
The lessons assist students in making real-world connections, literary comprehension skills, and wring development.
Each assignment partners with a lesson taught by the assigned district instructor digitally. The scripted RWAR lesson plans are provided to assist the teacher with giving students the needed guidance.
The program consists of two lessons each week, and all are done virtually. At the conclusion of the program, a video conference is held with an artist and students involved.
“The program is geared toward students of all learning levels and social demographics,” he continued. “Students will be given an opportunity to relate real world concepts to literature and writing.”
Now, with the Beats By Dre partnership, Small said the program will become available through major streaming platforms.
Using noise canceling headphones, students will be able to quietly listen to the music that is being studied and focus on every lyric presented, Small wrote.
“Balance is key, students will only use the headphones when instructed and must remain in the classroom during use,” he said.
He noted that millennials tend to revolve around technology.
“If you change the environment, you change the student,” Small articulated. “We believe through creative lighting in the room, students will be able to gain a sense of calmness and drive to participate in the RWAR curriculum.”
RWAR will curate a pop-up experience where selected students or adult audiences will interact with a featured artist and brand for an intimate session where the artist breakdown his or her song. The artists will engage in an in-depth discussion about their music and the importance of reading and writing.
“So now the lesson plans and how they interface with the teachers and how they interface with the artists will all be on one thing,” Small proclaimed. “Now, we will have streaming in education. We have just transcended something that’s never been done before.”
He further exclaimed that Legends Do Live looks to change today’s urban landscape by fostering a generation of higher social awareness, strong intellectual pursuits, and constant economic success.
Every individual possesses the ability to make a difference in this world, Small said.
“Our goal is to merely motivate our people to use their gifts, live life to the fullest, and leave a lasting legacy. For we understand that if we dedicate ourselves to the advancement of our generation, we will not only be remembered, but we will never die. We will be legendary.”