The Contest

Raise Your Voice

Youth 15-22 years old are invited to submit their original raps and poems about the drop out crisis in American High Schools. Poems and raps can be submitted by one person (individual) or by a group. 5 individual poems/raps will be chosen as our winners, and each person will receive a $5,000 educational scholarship and a trip to Washington DC to perform at the Kennedy Center on September 28 as part of a huge show around this issue. One group poem/rap will also be selected to receive a $2,500 award. Scholarships are provided courtesy of the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.

Finalists will be selected through a three-round process in which the American public and special guest judges – including Rosario Dawson and Russell Simmons – will vote. After the event at the Kennedy Center, the participants in The Raise Up Project have an opportunity to be featured in a National Public Radio series that will air in in late 2014. So what are you waiting for? Start writing!

The competition is open for submissions until June 30, 2014. Public voting will close at 11:59PM ET on July 19th, 2014.

Raise your voice. Raise the rate. Raise up.

I’ve never written a poem or a rap before. How do I get started?

Definitely check out our page of writing prompts. We also recommend looking at the infographics and articles and watching the interviews and other videos on our site for inspiration and information. We are looking for you to tell your story in your words. A poem is what you need it to be.

Writing Workshop for MCs

Are you an MC? Having trouble getting started on your Raise Up submission? Take the Digital MC Writing Workshop below!

I didn’t leave high school. What do I have to say?

It doesn’t matter if you left school, graduated on time, or if you left and came back. If you can speak to your own challenges in getting your degree, or even challenges other young people face that impact their ability or willingness to graduate (violence, poverty, pregnancy, skewed expectations, disconnect between school and lived reality, etc), you have something important to say on this topic. You can ask questions, talk about personal experience, or point out less-talked about issues related to students dropping out and/or finding ways to succeed. You can also respond to what someone else is saying about the drop out crisis. Check out the interview videos, articles, and other youth submissions to see what others are saying. As you can see from the statistics and research on the crisis page, the drop out crisis affects everyone. Explore your place in this issue.

I don’t have a camera. How can I make a video?

For this stage of the project, we are requiring a video upload. If you don’t know anyone with a webcam or camera phone you can use, you might be able to use a computer with a camera at a local school or library. After school programs and youth centers might provide access to a webcam or an adult with a camera phone, as well. If you live near a Brave New Voices partner, you could get access to a camera by contacting them. We’re also working with public media stations nationwide. Information will be available soon.

Can I use profanity?

We do not want to censor you. However, please note that pieces without profanity have a much better chance of being featured in schools, on the radio, and on a wider variety of platforms. Use the words you need, but to get your voice heard by the most people, we encourage you to be smart about the words you use in your pieces. Hate speech will not be allowed on the website.