Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Pharrell Williams’ New Private School Will Serve Low-Income Students at No Cost

This month, Pharrell Williams joined the club of Black celebrities who’ve launched K-12 schools. YELLOWHAB, a new network of private schools in Norfolk, Virginia, will serve lower-income students at no cost. Pharrell’s choice to use his brand, influence, and resources to create private schools will give him 100% autonomy to customize each school for the needs of his students. 

Pharrell can hire his own teachers, customize curricula, and implement support services for students. Tuition is the biggest barrier of entry into private schools for parents with limited means in Norfolk; so, Pharrell has marshalled his resources to provide a tuition-free learning environment for families. Every child deserves access to a high-quality education of their parents’ choice, and I am thrilled to see Pharrell adding to the education options in Norfolk, despite the sometimes polarizing political nature of school choice. 

Lower-income families, many of whom are Black, are too often shackled to the public school-to-prison pipeline with no hope for relief.

Last year, I founded a national movement called Black Minds Matter to bring attention to the inequities in the education system that eerily resemble the institutional injustices of our criminal justice system. Lower-income families, many of whom are Black, are too often shackled to the public school-to-prison pipeline with no hope for relief. While I cannot presume to know precisely what motivated Pharrell to launch this venture, I’ve yet to meet a Black man or woman who doesn’t recognize the existing system fails too many kids.

I like to think of the celebrities who’ve launched schools in America as an army committed to making a real difference in the lives of students. Many have rags-to-riches stories that have inspired us all to persevere through the hardships and struggles we’ve faced. The impact their schools make will last far longer than celebrity apparel or sports programs. 

From poverty, crime, trauma, homelessness, drug abuse, bullying, and more, celebrity school founders are joining the many other school-founding warriors attempting to solve our country’s hardest problems at its source. We know students of color are more likely to attend high-poverty, low-performing district schools, more likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Alternative school options bolstered by celebrities draw attention to a system in urgent need of change and offer a lifeline to many with seemingly bleak futures. 

This is a unique opportunity, and I hope more who have been blessed with success will join the army to invest in children. 

Black Celebrities Who’ve Launch #BlackOwnedSchools:

Pharrell Williams

YELLOWHAB, a microschool network founded in 2021 in Norfolk, Virginia. Serves lower-income students grades 3rd-5th. Admission is based on a lottery. 

LeBron James

I Promise School, a district public school (ran like a charter) founded in 2018 in Akron, Ohio. Serves at-risk students grades K-8th. Admission is based on a lottery.

Jalen Rose

Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school founded in 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Serves Detroit students grades 9th-12th, but supports all students through college. Admission is based on open enrollment. 

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Dr. Steve Perry

Capital Preparatory Schools, a year round charter school network founded in 2005. Capital Preparatory Schools has three campuses: 

Kevin Johnson

St. Hope Academy, a community development project founded in 1989 in Sacramento, California. St. Hope Academy operates three charter schools:

  • P.S. 7 Elementary was founded in 2002 in Sacramento, California. Serves students grades TK-5th. Admission is based on a lottery.
  • P.S. 7 Middle School was founded in 2002 in Sacramento, California. Serves students grades 6th-8th. Admission is based on a lottery.
  • Sacramento Charter High School founded in 2003 in Sacramento, California. Serves students grades 9th-12th. Admission is based on a lottery.
Photo via Pharrell Williams, Twitter.
Denisha Merriweather
Denisha Merriweather was a tax credit scholarship recipient in Florida, the Founder of Black Minds Matter and is the Director of Family Engagement at the American Federation for Children.


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