Friday, June 17, 2011


Hip Hop Superstar Nicki Minaj greets Collins Academy coeds armed with cameras.
On May 19, Hip Hop Superstar Nicki Minaj surprised Collins High School students by sweeping into the West Side school, serving as Principal for a Day, and teaching an English class. Her visit was a reward for Collins students winning a national attendance competition – the Get Schooled Get MotivatED Challenge. Escorting Nicki Minaj to Collins were MTV’s Sway Calloway, WGCI radio personality Connie, KISS-FM personality Special K, DJ Nurotic, Comcast, and AT&T. Comcast donated three $10,000 scholarships to Collins students demonstrating leadership throughout the challenge.
    The Get MotivatED Challenge is a 6-week competition to improve daily attendance rates nationwide. A total of 25 schools in 11 cities vied for the title in the Challenge that uses pop culture, technology and media to engage youth in the importance of attending school regularly.
    Minaj presented $10,000 college scholarships from Comcast to Amanda Chaney, Rachael Pillot, and Japone Johnson. In recognizing these students, Executive Vice President of the Comcast Foundation Charisse R. Lillie said, “Comcast seeks to support organizations that inspire young people to lead, and the Get MotivatED Challenge encourages them to do just that. We are thrilled to present these scholarships to these outstanding students at Collins Academy and bring them one step closer to achieving their educational goals.”
Minaj helped teach a freshman English class and joined MTV’s Sway Calloway in an all-school assembly to celebrate the students’ and teachers’ accomplishments. Students saw the performer’s serious side as she took over the class and led a lesson in English. Minaj is a graduate of LaGuardia High School in New York City. She said her educational experience influenced not just her career path, but also her commitment to giving back.
    Nicki Minaj said, “I am a young, female mogul before I am an artist. As a business woman, there isn’t a single day where I don’t use my education or acquire new knowledge to ensure my success. Regardless of where you are today, with education you can take yourself where you want to be. That’s why I am working with the Get Schooled Foundation. They are finding innovative and exciting ways to bring that message to schools like the Collins Academy.”
Studies show that rate of attendance is one of the most significant predictors of dropping out. Students with more than 20 absences any given year have only a 19% likelihood of graduating. According to the 2010 Diploma Counts report, only 55% of Chicago students graduate from high school on time. Throughout the 6-week competition, students and teachers at Collins Academy worked together and improved daily attendance by 7%. Since the competition ended, Collins Academy has maintained a 92% attendance rate, positioning the school among the top of all Chicago’s high schools in terms of attendance.
    “Collins Academy students and staff put everything into this attendance challenge,” said Collins Academy Principal Andre Cowling. “We tell students that they own their future and that education is their pathway to success. Winning this challenge is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our students and staff – and that work continues every day.”
“The Get MotivatED Challenge proved that with focus, support and incentives, schools can increase student engagement and high school attendance rates,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of the Get Schooled Foundation. “Collins Academy staff and students demonstrated tremendous commitment to changing their data and the 7% attendance gain is a testament to their hard work.”
    In addition to the $30,000 scholarships from Comcast to the three Collins Academy students, 12 students at four other competing schools, including Orr Academy High School in Chicago, Burke High School in Boston, Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, and McGavock High School in Nashville are each receiving $1,000 scholarships from Comcast as a reward for their leadership and for going above and beyond to motivate their peers throughout the competition.
    Schools that actively participated in the Challenge saw an average increase in attendance of 2.01%. As a whole, the Challenge motivated an additional 90 students to come to school – students who otherwise might not have found the motivation.
    During the national competition, students in participating schools recognized teachers as one of the most important motivators, submitting 3,000 nominations for more than 550 inspiring teachers. Students also submitted and voted on homemade original videos about the importance of education through the Def Jam Rapstar video contest received more than 100 entries. The winning entrant is being flown to New York to perform on BET’s 106 & Park. These activities drove more than 280,000 people to engage in at least one element of the Get MotivatED Challenge.
    The Get MotivatED Challenge is supported by AT&T, Comcast, Def Jam Rapstar, the Get Schooled Foundation, and Viacom.