Monday, November 23, 2009

Charta Squad rap video 'Relax' goes viral

BROOKLYN—When Art Samuels, Director of College Guidance and Culture at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS), originally posted a link to the SAT rap music video “Relax” on the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) E-List little did he expect to create an international sensation. “This is a stressful time of year for counselors,” explained Samuels. “I just thought the video could lighten things up a little.” And it did.

Since the communication went out to college admissions professionals, the Charta Squad SAT video has been enjoyed by over 14,000 visitors to YouTube—and the number is growing hourly as word spreads through the blogosphere as well as on college admissions websites such as Cappex, College Confidential, and the UVA Admissions Blog. Even The Chronicle of Higher Education included mention of the SAT rap video in a weekly news wrap-up. “The internet is an amazing thing,” commented Athena Apostolou, "Relax" co-producer and editor.

Shot in WCHS classrooms and hallways, the 4-minute video is based on 18 minutes of footage that was neither scripted nor rehearsed. “It sort of wrote itself,” according to Ms. Apostolou, who teaches art to students at WCHS. “We did it because we could really imagine how much the kids would enjoy it. What students wouldn’t want to see their teachers dancing around and singing?” Science teacher John Sullivan—who along with Art Samuels wrote the lyrics—added, “It was a ‘fun’ thing meant to demystify the SAT’s and get the kids to ‘relax.’”

In the past week, Samuels has been contacted by hundreds of counselors from all over the country requesting permission to use the video or adapt it for their students. One email came from China asking for a written copy of the lyrics. “The kids never let it die,” according to Samuels. “I’m known around school as the ‘guy in the video.’” Even Samuels’s dentist got in on the act, “He asked for my autograph.”

Based on the overwhelming response, Samuels definitely thinks the Charta Squad will come together for a sequel. "We accomplished our goals which were to get kids excited about the SAT, have fun, and take away stress."

“At the end of the day, it’s all for the students,” concluded Ms. Apostolou. "That’s why we’re in the profession—to help our kids succeed.”

Photo from Lisa Liang's photostream on Flickr

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