While Pharrell Williams may be best known for his Grammy award-winning hit “Happy” that effectively propelled him to global pop phenomenon status, the producer and performer is also a hardworking advocate for education who genuinely cares about the well-being of underserved youth. Which would explain why Pharrell has returned back to his hometown roots in Virginia Beach, VA, to partner with innovative edtech startup EverFi.
Beginning this summer, Pharrell’s educational non-profit From One Hand to AnOTHER will be working with EverFi to launch a new education initiative focused on providing digital learning opportunities to students attending the Summer of Innovation Camp coordinated by FOHTA. They’ll join forces to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering and math at the camps reaching more than 500 students in third through eighth grade and grant access to Ignition – Digital Literacy & Responsibility™ and Vault – Understanding Money™, two of EverFi’s web-based courses.
To announce the initiative, Pharrell and EverFi Co-Founder Ray Martinez were joined by fellow Princess Anne High School alum Brandon “Shaggy” Stokes at their alma mater Saturday. More than 800 students, administrators and community members were in attendance as Pharrell was presented with a key to the city as well as a custom painted skateboard and pair of sneakers. He was also given a 2014 school yearbook signed by thousands of Princess Anne students. Representatives from the office of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe were at the event, too, officially declaring June 7, 2014 as Pharrell Williams Day in Virginia.
“I just want to stress the importance to you guys — that even when you feel like you’re failing, even when you feel like you don’t have it – I felt that way,” Pharrell said in front of the students that reminded him of himself when he was younger. “My grades were not the best, I’m telling you right now. But none of my teachers gave up on me. Life is like a mosaic. It’s a bunch of pieces. I’m just one piece. But the rest of the pieces are my teachers who kept pushing me.”
Pharrell also spoke to how much potential the kids at Princess Anne have, adding that “it’s critical that we surround them with opportunities to learn, to be creative, and to have access to passionate teachers and mentors. If we’re going to develop a prepared workforce and the future leaders of America,” he said, “we need to make these kinds of critical learning opportunities possible even during the summer months.”
His inspiring words resonated with students and faculty alike, but even before Pharrell delivered his speech at Princess Anne, many community members took to Twitter with the hashtag #pharrellcomeshome to share their enthusiasm via social media.
— EverFi, Inc. (@EverFi) June 7, 2014
— SCAvalier (@PAHSSCA) June 7, 2014
We need help giving every student access to programs that inspire them that’s what From One Hand to AnOther is about #PharrellComesHome
— vbschools (@vbschools) June 7, 2014
— i am OTHER (@i_am_OTHER) June 9, 2014
A call to action for creative ways to provide educational opportunities to youth, Pharrell and EverFi are clearly making big academic strides this summer.