By ADAM SCHRADER and BEN CHAPMAN
Published in The New York Daily News on Aug. 30, 2016
Rap mogul and would-be educator Sean (Diddy) Combs delivered a rousing speech Monday to kick off the first day of classes at a new charter school he co-founded in his old Harlem neighborhood.
Speaking from a podium onstage in the student auditorium at Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, Combs told dozens of students and staffers that their school would change the world, starting with the people right there in the room.
“Great schools and great education make a big difference,” Combs told the cheering crowd. “Unfortunately, too many people don’t get the opportunity to succeed, no matter how hard they try. This is leveling the playing field here at Capital Prep.”
Combs, 46, was born in a public housing project in Harlem and raised in Mount Vernon.
He first gained fame as founder of Bad Boy Entertainment, a record label that released music by The Notorious B.I.G. and a slew of hit artists in the 1990s.
Combs had no background in education until he started work on Capital Prep Harlem in 2014. Besides his work in music, Combs has found success in a number of ventures including his Sean Jean clothing line.
He founded the new Harlem school in partnership with Connecticut educator. Dr. Steve Perry, who previously created a successful charter school in Hartford.
Perry, who frequently appears on television and writes books and articles on education, founded Capital Preparatory Magnet School in 2005.
The Hartford school features a no-excuses approach to student discipline and extended instructional time for students. It will serve as a model for Capital Prep Harlem.
“The advantages (of having a celebrity like Combs) are clear,” Perry said. “Mr. Combs has made a significant commitment to this.”
Capital Prep Harlem admitted 176 students in sixth and seventh grades for its first year of classes. Students were chosen from a random lottery of roughly 1,000 applicants.
The charter will expand to enroll about 700 students in grades 6-12 by the year 2021, school officials said.
Traditional public schools in the city begin classes next Thursday, but New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman said class is already in session for roughly half of the city’s 216 charters.
“It’s this hard work and innovative spirit that makes the charter sector what it is,” Merriman said.