Students of Struggling Philadelphia High School Start Using Recording Studio Donated by Drake

Hip-hop artist gave $75,000 to Strawberry Mansion HS after ABC News reports.

ByABC News
March 10, 2015, 5:29 PM

— -- The students at Strawberry Mansion High School, once considered one of the most dangerous schools in the country, have started using the school’s brand new recording studio donated by rapper Drake after a music teacher was finally hired.

Located in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood with a high crime rate, Strawberry Mansion is a school plagued by violence. It once spent six years on the state of Pennsylvania's "Persistently Dangerous Schools" list.

In a special ABC News "Hidden America" report on the school that first aired in May 2013, Diane Sawyer and ABC News producers followed the daily lives of the school's students and faculty, including its then-new principal, during the 2012-2013 school year. ABC News then went back in September 2013 to follow Strawberry Mansion at the start of the new 2013-2014 school year for a second special that aired in December 2013.

Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Drake was so moved by the ABC News specials, especially after learning that budget cuts had left the school without a music teacher, that he donated $75,000 to Strawberry Mansion for a new recording studio.

But even though members of Drake’s crew finished the studio last summer, Principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman told ABC News that budget issues and the school's violent history made it hard to find a music instructor.

So the studio, which included new keyboards and other equipment, as well as sound booths, sat unused for months.

Finally, Ben Diamond arrived in February to take on the role as a part-time music teacher who would teach studio production, but even then, Wayman said student interest was low at first.

It wasn’t until she used the school’s PA system to broadcast the first student-produced song to come out of the new recording studio that Wayman said students became interested. Now 91 students have signed up for the studio production class, she said.

"Music has a way of bringing people together," Wayman told ABC News via email. "That is what I want the music to do for my kids, bring them all together to find the special gifts that lay dormant inside of them. I want them to get distracted on their positive attributes to help them create within and around them. They all love music. That is the one thing they all have in common.

"For me, the opening of the studio is more than about music," Wayman added. "It is about making and keeping a promise to students who are constantly disappointed, pleasing them, making them happy and getting them to see that they must finish what they start [and] work hard to bring dreams into reality."

In addition to Drake, other ABC News viewers donated money to Strawberry Mansion after the 2013 specials aired. Their generosity helped provide school uniforms, jackets for the school's first football team, warm-up suits for the basketball team, school trips, PSAT and ACT prep classes, as well as scholarships for seniors heading off to college. Viewer donations also helped provide basic necessities that were missing at Strawberry Mansion, including books, notebooks and calculators.