Youth Speaks Launches “RAISE UP,” A Public Media Spoken Word & Hip Hop Contest and Radio Special In Partnership with The Kennedy Center Taking on the Drop Out Crisis

ImageSAN FRANCISCOApril 7, 2014 — Youth Speaks today announced a new youth hip hop and spoken word contest and radio special called “Raise Up.” This nationwide contest is designed to use the power of spoken word and hip hop, as well as the reach of public media to foster a discussion among a diverse group of young people about their education and future aspirations. The contest will run from April 7 through June 30, 2014. The winners – chosen by a panel of judges, including Def Jam Co-Founder Russell Simmons and actress and activist Rosario Dawson, will perform at The Kennedy Center. The Raise Up project is part of American Graduate:  Let’s Make It Happen, a public media effort to help communities address the high school dropout crisis supported by Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s (CPB).

“Public media is the voice of the community, bringing in diverse perspectives and addressing critical issues through reporting and storytelling, resources for the classroom, and as a local destination for community forums and dialogue,” said Patricia Harrison, President and CEO, CPB. “The contributions of our youth are essential to the enduring prosperity of our nation. Every child wants to succeed and every child has talent to contribute. Public media will not only capture their stories but help them to participate in a bright future for themselves and our country.”

“We want to hear from young people around the U.S. about the challenges they go through both individually and systemically, and we want to celebrate the successes of young people who have navigated the system and made it to graduation,” said Youth Speaks Founder and Executive Director James Kass. “Our goal is to encourage young people to raise their hands, raise their voices, raise up as an individual, raise up their schools, and ultimately use the power of their voice to help raise the rate of graduation.”

Project partners include Def Jam Records Co-Founder Russell Simmons, the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), Urban Word NYC, Young Chicago Authors, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Other key advisors on the project include Chair of the Emerson Education Fund at the Emerson Collective inPalo Alto, CA, Russlynn Ali, and Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Director of the Educational Equity Initiative at the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design (ISEEED) and an associate professor at San Francisco State University). Additional partners will be announced.

Participation is limited to individuals ages 15 – 22. Submissions will be accepted from April 1 through June 30, 2014. All submissions will be posted on the “Raise Up” website,, and voted on in a three-tier judging process: the general public, a diverse group of panelists selected by Youth Speaks, and finally an esteemed panel of celebrities and youth leaders, including Russell Simmons and Rosario Dawson. Five winners will be selected.  Each winner will receive $5,000 educational scholarships from the project partners and will travel to Washington, D.C. to perform at the Kennedy Center in the fall. Youth Speaks will work with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) to produce a corresponding two-part series that will be distributed to public radio stations nationwide.

Youth Speaks will also work with public media stations in every community across the country and the organization’s extensive Brave New Voices youth network to promote the project to potential contestants. “We want to have as many young people as possible be part of the national discussion about the high school dropout crisis,” said Kass. “We believe their voices have the power to change the conversation.”

For more information, please visit:

About Youth Speaks
Youth Speaks is the leading presenter of spoken word education and youth development programs in the U.S. With ongoing, comprehensive programs in the San Francisco Bay Area serving 45,000 youth locally and national programs that serve over 250,000, Youth Speaks facilitates safe spaces within and outside of public institutions where youth can critically analyze, write and voice their own experiences through this powerful artistic medium to thousands of their peers. Each year, Youth Speaks organizes and hosts the Brave New Voices Festival, the home of the national youth poetry slam. In 2009 and 2010, Brave New Voices as featured on HBO.

About American Graduate
American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs, and inspires public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are important resources in helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate. In addition to national programming, more than 80 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to high school graduation. More than 1000 partnerships have been formed locally through American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

AIR is a vibrant international production network made up of 1000 public media journalists, documentarians, technicians, media entrepreneurs, and sound artists with a core expertise in independent audio production. TheBoston-based organization identifies, cultivates, and deploys producers to deepen understanding of and bring enlightenment to citizens worldwide. Its training programs and productions are defining and driving an expanding media landscape spanning digital/technology, broadcast, and street media platforms.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center, located on 17 acres overlooking the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., is America’s living memorial to President Kennedy as well as the nation’s busiest arts facility. Touring Kennedy Center productions and its television, radio, and Internet broadcasts reach more than 40 million people around the world each year. As part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone program, more than 400 free performances are offered each year featuring international, national, and local artists. These include daily 6 p.m. concerts on the Millennium Stage—now in its 16th year—which are streamed live over the Internet and digitally archived on

SOURCE Youth Speaks

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About Kerline K. Jules (686 Articles)
A native of Miami, Florida, Kerline Jules is one of South Florida’s leading young professionals and community leaders invested in public service and passionate about elevating the message of social and economic empowerment. Kerline believes a legacy of good intentions is no legacy at all; her very focus is on making sure that her life’s work makes an impact.

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