Sebastien & Harris

Hip Hop Program Killed by Budget Cuts


One of the nation’s first programs to bring full time Hip Hop education to high school students seeks new partners after financial crisis terminates its 5-year run.

Los Angeles, California, February 2011 – Since 2006, The Global Awareness through Hip Hop Culture program has been at the forefront of legitimizing the use of Hip Hop culture in mainstream education. Based at a charter school in South Los Angeles, it has been one of the only educational Hip Hop program in the nation offered as a regular class to middle and high school students. Sadly, due to ever-increasing budget cuts, the program will no longer have a home come June 2011.
hiphop program

Sebastien Elkouby, the program’s founder, created this class to address the educational crisis that affects about 50 percent of inner-city students across the U.S. He says, “For a variety of reasons, many students feel completely disconnected from the traditional educational process. This class uses the positive elements of Hip Hop culture that aren’t usually promoted in mainstream media as a medium to develop critical thinking skills while teaching them language arts, social studies, and life skills.”

For the past two years, Elkouby watched budget cuts terminate programs nationwide and suspected that his program would eventually suffer a similar fate. “I can’t expect my program to be safe when thousands of teachers across the country are receiving pink slips. When it comes down to choosing between a Hip Hop class and a science class, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s getting the ax first, no matter how enriching my program has proven to be.”

During its run, the program experienced great success. Elkouby says, “We’ve achieved a lot. We’ve had Hip Hop legends like MC Lyte and KRS-ONE as guests. We’ve sent kids to DJ retreats. We’ve been awarded state-of-the-art studio equipment. We’ve received international media coverage and been featured in documentaries…and this doesn’t even cover a third of what we’ve achieved. But what I’m most proud of is the impact that the program has had on the students. For hundreds of them, this class has been life-changing.”

Former student A. Dominguez says, “Taking this class has made me realize how much I have changed as an individual and has given me the hope to pursue my wildest dreams. Everyone should be able to participate in such a life changing experience!”

In 2007, Elkouby began working with the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles, advising educators from around the world on how to use Hip Hop culture as an educational medium. In 2008, the National Society of High School Scholars selected Elkouby as “Educator of Distinction”. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to prevent the program from being terminated.

Elkouby is hopeful that the program will find a new home. “It doesn’t even have to be offered at a school,” he says. “I’m open to bringing the program wherever the need is. I know that there’s money available to fund creative programs. We just have to find it. Who knows? It may even come from someone in the Hip Hop community.”

About the Global Awareness through Hip Hop Culture Program

The Global Awareness through Hip Hop Culture Program is an innovative music, language arts, and social studies program designed to assist low-performing students in developing their language skills, life skills, and global awareness through culturally responsive pedagogy.

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