BURLINGTON, VT- Voya Financial is a leading provider of retirement plans for educators. Voya’s Unsung Heroes program is an initiative that has awarded more than $5 million to educators for innovative teaching ideas since 1996.
In 2020, 50 winners were awarded $2,000 grants for their creative teaching ideas. Among those winners is Jason Raymond who is a teacher at Burlington Technical Center. Raymond is a digital media lab teacher who started an after school program called Electro Hip Hop.
Raymond said he already had a class where students were creating electronic music, but for several years the class had a long wait list. So, Raymond created Electro Hip Hop for students to come after school and do things like make beats, write lyrics, and film music videos.
“The Electro Hip Hop club is a place for students to come and begin to collaborate and work together through peer to peer learning. They can expand their skills and be able to start creating music together,” said Raymond.
Raymond said his program is also about furthering youth culture. “The reason why I wanted to move to this particular school district is because Burlington is a refugee resettlement city and there are a dynamic range of voices and perspectives,” he said.
Patient Mwibeleca is a junior at Burlington High School and a member of Electro Hip Hop. He is originally from the Congo. He spends time doing photography and making music.
“This program is really helpful because you can do anything in your language and it doesn’t matter and I think that’s something I really like about this program,” said Mwibeleca.
Staff at Voya Financial say Jason is a great candidate for the award
“He talked about his area of refugee population and how he empowers them to sort of integrate music from their own native countries. We also know that kids love music, so it’s a great way to sort of bridge the gap, relate to your students, and keep them engaged in the class,” said Director of Social Impact for Voya Financial Braeden Mayrisch.
During the pandemic, the club has found virtual ways to make music. They have also made videos while social distancing.
In addition to a $2,000 grant. Jason will be competing against the other 50 winnners to win grand prizes of $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000. The program has also expanded to middle school aged students and he says he could us the money for equipment.