Nancy Dow Thanks to B.o.B., the north side’s Alcott College Prep is officially on the hip hop map.
The teens there were surprised Wednesday with a special assembly and a meet and greet with the rap artist after having come in second place – so far – in a video contest. The kids were honored for their commitment to the “Get Schooled, Get Connected Challenge,” which uses a technology-based platform of games, pop culture, localized information, recognition and rewards to engage and motivate students to prepare for college.
The visit was supposed to be a surprise, but it was hard to hide the security guards, TV cameras and big black, dark window-tinted SUVs circling the school.
“I knew he was coming but I didn’t know what time he was coming,” says Amdalat Alli-Baloguf, 18, who shrieked when B.o.B. addressed her – personally – on stage. “I was just so excited he was coming to our school because it’s small and nobody really knows Alcott College Prep.”
But clearly a status change is a’coming.
The self-described “no genre” artist is known for his interesting collaborations. In the past he’s done a collab with the lead singer of Paramore and is rumored to be releasing a rock album soon. And in that spirit, he encouraged the students to color outside the lines.
“It’s an amazing thing to discover [the creativity] in yourself byjust taking something everyday or ordinary and changing it and warping it and making it something different ,” says B.o.B., who is based in Atlanta and wore a fox-trimmed puffy coat and Chicago-appropriate Jordans for this special appearance. “it puts the mind in a whole different place. If you apply this to life you can go anywhere. Just put your own essence, your own DNA in it and become something completely different.”
It seems that B.o.B. is speaking to the current teenage zeitgeist, which celebrates everything from country (Taylor Swift) to hip hop (Kanye West) to science fiction (Comic Con.) Nothing is off limits, he says, and it’s very liberating to be an artist at this time.
Every school and community-based organization in Chicago was eligible to take the challenge. And competition was tough – especially in a time when so many teens have access to high-end video equipment on their cell phones.But Alcott won outlargely due to the efforts of a group of older teens who made a video that caught the attention of the B.o.B.’s management. Plus, it’s a public contest so – Reddit style – others were able to upvote the winning video.
It’s not too late for teens to join here.
This contest is 35 days old and runs until mid-January. A $75,000 grant could be the ultimate reward for one school or it could be split amongst schools. Meanwhile, the “carrot” of the process is the access to celebrities while also helping the teens figure out how to apply to college and how to apply for financial aid. B.o.B. pulled personally pulled the winning tickets while also hosting a dance contest on stage at Alcott Prep. And,since the contest is ongoing,there could be another assembly like this in the future for another school. The same program rewarded Roberto Clemente Community Academy witha visit from Chicago Bear Jordan Mills in September. Check out the leader board here.
Below, see a play-by-play of the assembly.