Pharrell’s foundation opening school for 3rd to 5th-graders in Norfolk


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Music superstar and Hampton Roads native Pharrell Williams’s YELLOW foundation is opening a private school to provide an immersive education for students in Norfolk.

YELLOW’S YELLOWHAB will open in the Ghent neighborhood and is looking for rising third through fifth-grade students from low-income families to apply.

“The mission of YELLOW is to even the odds for all youth through education. We wanted to design a school environment that would offer a highly customized learning experience for every child,” said Mike McGalliard, who is the executive director for YELLOW.

McGalliard says their immersive educational approach will centrally focus on their students and help teach them depending on their strengthens and challenges.

“Education’s historical problem is that it tries to address the middle. When you try to address the middle, you got some kids sailing faster and some kids falling behind. We wanted to design an experience that was unique to every kids’ traits. The mission of the school is to even the odds through highly customized learning experiences,” he said.

Students who attend the private and independent school will not have to pay tuition but parents must apply for them to be accepted.

McGalliard says right now, they are accepting between 40 to 50 students.

Those students must either qualify for free or reduced lunch or meet Virginia’s low-income requirements.

They also must live within the City of Norfolk, which is currently in the beginning phases of redeveloping the St. Paul’s quadrant that is home to three large public housing communities.

“I think this area is such a good fit,” said Stephanie Walters, who is YELLOW’s director of engagement. “We obviously all know what’s going on in Norfolk. These kids are getting opportunities that might not be otherwise be offered to them. We know these kids might be displaced with potentially no housing to go to which would make things more challenging. So to be able to provide the opportunity of this unique learning space with so many things happening inside it, honestly, for us it was a no-brainer.”

Walters and McGalliard say the education the school will provide is not just about traditional subjects such as math and literacy but a holistic approach to help students thrive.

“The education part is so important to us and it’s also important the child gets a sense of who they are. Who are you when they show up? How do you show up in the world? So being able to offer them opportunities for mental wellness, physical wellness, and learning about themselves, their history, their culture,” Walters said. “I think that’s really important for a child to be able show up well in school, then they’ll show up well when they do their lessons and their projects and their assignments because they have a sense of self. YELLOWHAB is really big on building this YELLOWHAB culture for all the kids and their families.”

Walters says YELLOWHAB will also be engaged with the community and will provide activities for families whose students are not accepted in.

Parents have until 11:59 p.m. on July 1 to enroll into a lottery system.

Starting on July 2, there will be an internal lottery where students will be selected. Parents will be notified and will have to provide additional documentation to prove residency and grade level, according to Walters.

“If school is working for your child, you feel like your child is getting the opportunities they deserve, they’re thriving and in a good environment, you’re in a good place. It’s working out,” said McGalliard. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case for so many kids. They don’t feel like they’re getting the opportunities they deserve. They don’t feel like they’re thriving in their current situation. Then, YELLOWHAB is an option for you.”

YELLOWHAB has already hired a site director but they are looking for creative teachers who can provide project-based learning and competency-based education.

“We’re hiring from within. We’re building here and starting at home,” said Walters. “Our founder is super excited about starting right here at home. We just happy to have everyone’s support and hope you will join in support of TEAM YELLOW and YELLOWHAB.”

YELLOWHAB will open on Sept. 7 and will eventually expand to not only other grades but other sites throughout Hampton Roads.

To enroll your student in the lottery selection, click here.

To apply for a teaching position, click here.

To learn more about YELLOWHAB, click here.

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