Pharrell Williams is creating an equal playing field for children in the Norfolk, Virginia, community and will be opening a private school in the Ghent neighborhood there this fall. The super producer and his nonprofit YELLOW are making the school available for low-income families and have christened the building Yellowhab. The name is contrived from the name of his nonprofit and “hab,” which is the name of the Mars habitat in the movie The Martian.
Yellowhab will be open for students in third through fifth grades, and they also plan to open more throughout Virginia in the future. The first year of tuition will be free for all students and covered by philanthropic gifts.
“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,” Williams told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
The school currently is hosting a lottery to select 40 to 50 students for the opportunity and will be grouping students by skill level instead of grades, which is different from public schools.
“The challenge is that if you’re progressing too slow relative to some benchmark, then you’re tagged with that title ‘remedial’ or something like it,” Yellowhab Executive Director Mike McGalliard told The Virginian-Pilot. “And that’s detrimental to your evolving self-concept, to your sense of what you can achieve. It’s oppressive, and it’s a weight kids carry.”
Parents have until July 1, 2021, to apply for the school, and more information can be found at www.yellowhab.com.
Yellowhab also plans to expand around the country within the next five years. Williams states on the website that Yellowhab will be the first of a network of micro-schools offering individualized learning aligned to the future of work.