Tackling Drop Out Recovery with Music

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We say that if you’ve been to one charter school you’ve been to… one charter school. Every school is unique and serves students who are different—different learning styles, motivations, and interests. And charter schools, like the High School for Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul, Minnesota, truly cater to those differences.

At HSRA, students learn reading, writing, and self-management while they create YouTube videos. And not just any YouTube videos—major companies, like Verizon Wireless and State Farm Insurance, have hired HSRA students to create their public service announcements.

The school was founded as a pilot program in 1996 and became a charter school in 1998, with a focus on addressing the dropout crisis in the St. Paul community. As with many charter schools, the program got its start when a member of the community saw a need and drew on his own experience. School founder David TC Ellis struggled in school and was kicked out of two high schools before transferring to St. Paul Open School, where the hands-on learning style and strong student-teacher relationships helped him flourish. Before founding HSRA, he produced a double-platinum record with Prince. Read more about his experience.

Over the past 25 years, HSRA has grown from 15 students to 300, with graduates going on to produce music for internationally acclaimed artists, such as Lauryn Hill, Trey Sonz, and Mos Def. As one of the earliest-founded charter schools in the country, HSRA has helped many students find their path forward when other schools left them behind.

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