LAS VEGAS ( KLAS ) – Reaching middle school kids on their terms – and helping them succeed.

Students at Grant Sawyer Middle School are very good at showing off their hip-hop skills, but this story is more about the message on the back of their t-shirts “Where you come from does not dictate where you end up in life.”

Teacher Robert Strawder:

“Hip-hop saved my life. I’d probably be dead or in jail. I would’ve been doing drive bys, but I was in the studio.”

Metro Police Officer Arnold Parker was super-impressed when he met Strawder:

“I said to him, ‘Bro, you got somethin’ special. You got a gold mine right here.’”

And the kids have *flipped out* about their new possibilities.

One student says:

“If it wasn’t for Mr. Strawder, I don’t think I would’ve been the person I am right now.”


“Hip-hop influenced me to have more of a voice.”

And a third student:

“Usually I’m very quiet, but I feel like it helped me to be more open about myself.””

Strawder says there’s a lot more than music to the hip-hop entrepreneurship program:

“We had 6th, 7th & 8th graders creating business plans. That just let me know that through everything hip-hop can embrace everybody everyone.”

And the community has noticed. Olivia Smith from the Metro Police Foundation:

“It’s so much fun watching them and the crowd reacting to them. That’s my job satisfaction.”

And what did Tony gladney from mgm resorts pick up on?

“The energy. The passion is a healthy passion. It is an effective passion that’s needed for young people to be successful.”

Strawder was recently named one the ccsd’s new educators of the year for the elective program that includes the history of hip-hop and rap, but obviously goes way past that into confidence building and life skills

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