RADFORD – In the fall of 2019, a small group of Radford High School (RHS) students requested and were granted a face-to-face meeting with teachers and administrators to present their case for forming a hip hop club on the high school campus.
The students were so convincing that their efforts resulted in the administration granting them a space for the studio and a little seed money to purchase equipment. Club members agreed that the club would exist not only for the production of individual creative works but also for promotion of school events and to relay messages to the school and wider community. RHS teacher Nikki Greco agreed to sponsor the club. The students dubbed the club Bobcat Studio Club and began their work. Last school year, the club teamed with the RHS video production class to combine video and original compositions to promote school-related messaging.
In December of 2019, Radford City Public Schools teamed with Virginia Tech’s Craig Arthur, Head of Community Engagement for Virginia Tech University Libraries, and Dr. Freddy Paige, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor, and received a $3,000 Jones grant through the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts (CENI).
CENI, the educational research arm of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), supports outreach and engagement by connecting the community and Virginia Tech researchers. This partnership leading to the RHS Hip Hop studio was facilitated by CENI liaison Dr. Jamie Little.
The grant was used to purchase the necessary equipment, to renovate the studio space and to produce curriculum to support the use of the studio. The curriculum was largely modeled on the Virginia Tech Diggin’ in the Crates (VTDITC) Studio Hours program, a weekly series of studio sessions that has taken place every Friday in Virginia Tech’s Newman Library Media Design Studio B since the spring 2018 semester.
VTDITC: Hip Hop Studies at Virginia Tech, founded in 2016, is an award-winning series of community engagement programs that is based in the University Libraries. The program is deeply rooted in hip hop culture and is cosponsored by numerous organizations both on campus and in the community.
The VTDITC community has hosted more than 350 programs since its founding, and VTDITC’s Community Engagement Fellows, a team of VT students, helped design and co-teach approximately 45 media literacy workshops for the public last year. VTDITC’s mission is to make the arts more accessible, to recognize art as scholarship, to learn by doing and, importantly, to have fun.
The relationship between VTDITC and RHS creates a new and incredibly unique opportunity for college students to share skills and expertise with younger students who hold a similar passion. This shared passion was evident when several of the Bobcat Studio Club members and Greco attended a workshop sponsored by VTDITC on the Virginia Tech campus last school year.
Arthur and his students provided an exciting, hands-on experience for the high school students that included instruction in all aspects of music production and resulted in the creation of an original hip hop song and music track.
Production in the Bobcat Studio has been put on hold due to the changes COVID-19 has brought to the school system. However, as clubs begin to reconvene and with the help of VTDITC, the Bobcat Studio Club can reboot and continue to evolve into a group of learners that delves deeply into media and digital literacy, audio engineering, community engagement and outreach and transdisciplinary co-creation. The VTDITC community hopes to conduct similar projects with other public schools in the future.
The creation of and support for the Bobcat Studio Club at RHS exemplifies Radford City School’s commitment to reshape its high quality, traditional educational practices into ones that reflect 21st-century thinking and address 21st century skill sets. Radford City Schools Superintendent Rob Graham, is excited about the program.
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring this innovative opportunity to our school division and certainly are grateful for the partnership we have with CENI and VTDITC,” said Radford City Schools Superintendent Rob Graham. “We look forward to the day when we will be able to get back into the studio, complete the renovations and return to once again working with our partners and mentors from Virginia Tech. We are expecting great successes from this creative program.”
Radford City Public Schools