Local School Lures High School Dropouts with Music

Updated: 06/09/2014 10:41 AM
Created: 06/09/2014 9:12 AM
By: Steve Patterson

Marcelles Lane was a dropout - frustrated with school and ready to give up - until he found a charter school right up his alley. 

Admittedly, one of the things he really likes about the school is that they let him rap.  Actually, they go beyond just allowing it -  they encourage it.  And they grade him accordingly. 

Tony Simmons is the Executive Director of High School for the Recording Arts in St. Paul.  It’s a non-traditional school that uses the spark of music to light the fire of education. 

“How do we translate that to show them the relevance of English, math, social studies, science while they're pursuing creative arts?” asked Simmons.

A hard-to-reach student body requires teachers that aren't just willing, but eager to adapt. Lead Advisor Joey Cienian seems just the guy for the job, saying, “My challenge is to constantly get to know my students and learn what they need to get started, what they're going to be inspired by, what they're interested in, what they're creatively engaged in, and I use all that stuff to help inform how I write my lessons.”

Though non-traditional in nature, students still have to meet state requirements, and in order to graduate, students must first be accepted to college. For Tony Simmons, those acceptance letters refute the commonly-held misconception about his students that "the kids that we're working with are throwaways; they're not worth the investment. There could be nothing further from the truth."

Simmons is convinced that the investment of public funding now saves Minnesota money later, saying, “You're really turning a young person from being perhaps dependent on government to being a productive member of society.”

Upon graduation, many students like Marcelles Lane will leave the safe haven of HSRA and be faced with the tough reality of life outside of those walls.  He’s hoping that the time they spent inside of them will pay off in the end. 

He thinks it will, saying, ”This place is saving people.”

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