We’ve got some words for those of y’all who don’t think kids value their education: think again.
Students from Milwaukee Excellence Charter School went viral with their remix of Tee Grizzley’s “First Day Out.” In the video, they rap about how nothing will stop them from reaching for the stars and persuing higher education.
The “Excellence First!” video, created by King Quis Productions and SimsStrong, debunks the myth that kids—particularly kids of color—aren’t invested in their education. Terrance Sims, teacher and creator of the video, told CASSIUS the project came from trying to connect with his students about his expectations for them for the school year.
“I wrote it to get them excited about the school year, but it picked up steam when the kids started helping me with the lyrics and from there we made the video,” he told CASSIUS. “It’s come to the point where we’ll be remixing a lot of popular songs to address issues kids face in a school setting, such as bullying, being new at school, and more.”
These students are aiming to beat the statistics. Wisconsin has the largest white-Black graduation gap in the country. In the city of Milwaukee’s public schools, only 15 percent of eighth graders are proficient in reading and just 17 percent are proficient in math. In addition, for Milwaukee’s 2011-12 academic year, 43 percent of Black high school kids were suspended.
Sims said that music helped him stay focused as a student in the Milwaukee school system, and he believes in a holistic learning experience for his students. In addition to the music they create together, the school also facilitates a book club where students can read stories that are relevant to their lives and see people who look like them achieving throughout history. They also have math clubs to make sure that students are performing up to their grade level and host character conversations to talk about topics like privilege and identity.
“I’ve always tried to use methods that are culturally based in my classroom,” Sims said. “Anything that can lock kids into what I’m teaching with an academic lesson, I’m all for it. Music is a perfect avenue for that.”
You can see the video below.