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Pharrell to open private schools for low-income families

Pharrell and his nonprofit group, YELLOW, will open its first school in Norfolk this fall.

Pharrell Getty Images

Pharrell Williams is highly praised for his role as a producer, but his philanthropic work is just as commendable. The hitmaker and his nonprofit YELLOW are currently working on developing small private schools for students in low-income families.

As Pilot Online reported, Yellowhab, the first of Williams’ private schools for third, fourth and fifth graders will open up on Sept. 7 in Ghent, a neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia. The exact location of the school — which will be disclosed at a later time — was particularly chosen as the first site due to the current housing segregation and the future redevelopment of three public housing communities, which will result in an increased amount of displaced families.

“If the system is fixed and unfair, then it needs to be broken,” Williams said in a news release. “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.”

“Residents [are] being displaced from their homes with potentially limited housing options available which limits options for the children,” added Stephanie Walters, YELLOW’s director of engagement. “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.”

Per Pilot Online, Yellowhab will initially enroll between 40 and 50 students from anywhere in the city. They will learn a variety of subjects, including STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — and will be categorized based on skill/performance level. With donations from the Walton Family Foundation, the Harlem Children’s Zone and more, Yellowhab’s students will not have to pay tuition for at least the first year.

YELLOW is hoping to expand with the launch of a middle school next year. There are no plans to make any of their forthcoming schools public charters.

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