Artist Common Learns From Coachella Students

News Staff

Coachella, CA

It’s not everyday students get to spend time with a celebrity but Bobby Duke Middle School students in Coachella learned Common is not your typical Hollywood star.

"For him to take time out of his day, to come over here was an honor," says eighth grade student Joshua Moore, who after this hours long visit, now has more to admire Common for than his music and movies.

"The main thing that I learned from him was don’t be afraid to use your voice," says eighth grader Kiana Zendejas, adding she’s grateful Common would take time out of his busy schedule to visit her school. 

Common wasn’t there to talk about his many awards, instead the hip hop artist, actor and activist wanted to learn from the students how a program called Restorative Justice is changing their lives.

I learned Restorative Justice is powerful … giving people a chance to express themselves and finding what the root of the issue is so that you can help solve the problem in a real way," says Common.

The school is the only one in the district using the program that reforms punishment. Instead of immediate suspensions, students in trouble  learn life skills to deal with issues affecting them. Building Healthy Communities Coachella Valley, with the help of The California Endowment, who secured the $500,000 a year to fund it, says since it started in 2015 suspension rates are down nearly five percent, grades are up and teachers are more understanding of the struggles students face in their daily lives in and out of school.

Alejandro Maciel, an eighth grade student says he and his friend are proof the program works, "We had a conflict in the beginning of seventh grade we were able to have Restorative Justice … we’re really great friends now I look up to him, he looks up to me, we’re both trying to be leaders, trying to be the best we can."

Common, who is passionate about justice system reform and helping the youth, says this program will prevent students from becoming part of a system that has robbed many of a bright future, "This is like a really powerful way to help kids stay away from prisons and be productive in school and in society, "It really sets them on a path to say, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t want to be a part of the prison system, I don’t need to be getting arrested and acting up, because I’ve got another way to express myself, you know I’ve got another way to release this pain and this anger,’ so this is like a really powerful way to help kids stay away from prisons and be productive in school and in society."

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