Pharrell, in tandem with his nonprofit, Yellow, is looking to expand its education ventures by first launching a handful of private schools aimed at low-income students in his Virginia hometown. The news comes just after Pharrell and Chanel have announced that they are joining forces to launch a two-part mentorship program for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs.
The first of the schools is set to open in Virginia’s Ghent neighborhood, Norfolk. In an interview with The Virginian Pilot, Pharrell said, “If the system is fixed and unfair, then it needs to be broken. We don’t want lockstep learning where so many kids fall behind; we want bespoke learning designed for each child, where the things that make a child different are the same things that will make a child rise up and take flight.”
The school, Yellowhab, will offer free tuition for the first year with costs paid for by charitable giving. Currently, students from grades three through five will be able to enroll in the school. Though Yellow does not plan to be a public charter school, it is connected with charter schools as one of its first donors is the Walton Family Foundation.
Pharrell explained he chose Norfolk as the first location of the school due to its housing segregation and because the city plans to redevelop three public housing complexes. Stephanie Walters, Yellow’s director of engagement, told The Pilot, “Residents [are] being displaced from their homes with potentially limited housing options available which limits options for the children. We have a great relationship with the City of Norfolk and want to be a part of the solution in supporting the community with resources and support.”
The school promises to prioritize STEAM learning, or science, technology, engineering, art and math. The foundation plans to open up the middle school next year, as well as other schools in the area. The first school under Pharrell’s foundation will open this year on September 7. Enrollment is now available online at Yellow until July 1 and students are expected to be selected based on a lottery system.
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