A Central Primary School student dances in a video produced by Bedford, Ohio art teacher, Kenan Gabriel; Photo: Kenan Gabriel

As hip-hop culture continues to grow in popularity, teachers across the nation are utilizing it as a potent and meaningful learning tool; a way to connect with the youth using a medium that they can relate to.

The trend now continues in Bedford, Ohio where art teacher Kenan Gabriel has been praised for incorporating rap music into his curriculum.

Gabriel is an instructor at Central Primary School, and has mentored a few select students who have helped him direct a rap video. “These are standards and values that we have at Central that the children have grabbed on to,” Gabriel told Cleveland’s WKYC 3. “And so I want when the world hears about what’s going on at Central. I want it to be from the children.”

With the help of third graders Justyn Lampkin, Ethan Hailey and Damarian Warren, Gabriel penned “Central Every Day” as a way to inform the student body on what it means to be accountable; rapping “I’m making my decisions/I quit making excuses/My mind is like a muscle and I’m not afraid to use it.”

“Central Every Day” helps the students embrace a certain standard, one built upon “respect, kindness, hard work and choosing to be great.” The rap video has already paid dividends with students responding in positive ways. Melissa Rossen who is Lampkin’s, Hailey’s and Warren’s primary teacher explains that since Gabriel has been mentoring the three students she has seen a drastic improvement in their overall attitude.

“When they do an action that they know is not what they are supposed to be doing, they end up thinking about it and saying, ‘Oh, Mrs. Rossen, I’m so sorry I lied about that,”‘ Rossen explained to WKYC 3. “They take ownership of what they did. He (Gabriel) took those students under his arm and said ‘let’s become the men that we need to become.'”

Gabriel is already working on a remix to “Central Every Day,” but this time he wants the students to rap the main verse. It’s his way of letting the students know that they all have a voice.

“It’s important to me to let all the children know that your voice matters and the things you have to say and the things that you value matter,” said Gabriel. “They can speak up and let people know who they are and how they’re distinct.”