U.N.I.T.Y.: Utilizing New Innovations and Transformative Youth/Education

On Thursday, April 11, 2024, the CIPHER Hip Hop Learning Community hosted their award-winning 17th Annual Rock The School Bells (RTSB) Hip Hop Conference to over 300 high school and college students. This year’s theme was U.N.I.T.Y., highlighting the global impact that hip-hop culture has on building community across many cultures with youth and students. Within the context of higher education, U.N.I.T.Y. also explores how our educational spaces are relevant and responsive to the needs of our students. Delving into this theme further, students could participate in a choice of 18 different Hip Hop workshops rooted in authenticity, innovation, and evolution. Our Skyline College faculty hosted some workshops, intentionally designed to create the intersectionality of Hip Hop and academic disciplines of Business, English, Counseling, and Ethnic Studies. Thank you to Dr. Rod Daus-Magbual, Dr. Liza Erpelo, Soledad McCarthy, Andrea Hernandez, Arnette Villela-Smith, Monica Macaldo-Gubatina, and Lucia Lachmayr for co-creating this experience for our high school students.

In addition to attending various workshops such as Feeding The CIPHER, Art Books for Literacy and Liberation, Hip Hop as Critical Pedagogy, and our Oye Mi Gente: Latinx in Hip Hop Panel, attendees also had the opportunity to experience live performances by DJ Tek, Frisco Baby, 650Francis and a PCN dance performance by the Kababayan Learning Community. They also had the opportunity to experience an All Styles Dance showcase where high school students could perform and compete against each other on the dance floor.

Acting President Dr. Newin Orante provided the welcome remarks highlighting the importance of creating spaces for youth and students to be their authentic selves. Our closing keynote speaker, Davin Thompson, also known as Do Dat, provided a captivating message amplifying the strength and power of our youth voices, reminding us that Hip Hop culture provides youth the platform to express themselves freely and authentically in spaces where they are often silenced and invisible.

Creating this educational experience for our students; there are so many people who came together to make this happen. Thank you to RTSB coordination leads – Bing Lozano-Lim and Alex Urbina for their assistance in making this conference a reality. Thank you, Marisa Thigpen, for organizing the Resource Fair that included the Learning Communities, Financial Aid, Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Development, the Learning Center, Peer Mentoring, and Cosmetology. A special shout-out goes to the Barbering, Cosmetology, and Esthetics (BCE) Program for giving our attendees free clean-ups, quick shaves, and braiding. Gratitude to Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Development for providing lunch for our attendees, facilitators, and performers. Thank you to the Outreach Office for inviting our high school partners. To our Facilities team, thank you for creating the space we envisioned for our conference. To the Media Services team – Josh Porter and Parrish Charles for supporting our AV efforts throughout the day. We are also grateful for our donors and vendors who made this event successful. Special shout out to our community vendors, HD Light & Party SF, who brought life to the event with their amazing LED dance floors and Impact Sounds Photobooth for DJing our event.

None of this would be possible without the support of our Skyline College Administration who have supported our event for the last 17 years – Acting President Dr. Newin Orante, VPI Vinizio Lopez, VPSS Dr. Luis Escobar, Interim GLPS Dean Zaid Ghori, Acting Dean of Counseling Ellen Murray and all of our Academic Deans and educational leaders. This event was also partially funded by the San Mateo County Measure K Funds. Lastly, to the RTSB planning team who have tirelessly planned for this event for the last 6 months along with the 30+ volunteers that made the event flow seamlessly.

From the words of one of our high school partners, “This event felt so magical. Thank you for providing this event for our students.” It truly takes a whole village to create this magic in the spirit of Hip Hop culture.

To learn more about Rock The School Bells, you can go to www.rocktheschoolbells.com. If you want to get involve for next year’s RTSB, please contact Dr. Nate Nevado at nevadon@smccd.edu.

Article by: Nate Nevado

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