Want to Show Your Kids How to Connect? Teach Them How to Rap (VIDEO)

A new music-based program transforms at-risk kids through storytelling.
Daniel Manning and his father Keith Ferrazzi bring Words2Life to other kids who need a voice. (Photo: Greenlight Giving)
Mar 1, 2013· 2 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Several years ago, Keith Ferrazzi was struggling to connect with his foster son. At 12 years old, Daniel was angry, disengaged and had gotten kicked out of a string of schools in quick succession. Countless attempts to engage his son in constructive conversation had yielded little difference in his behavior, so Ferrazzi came up with a way to reach Daniel through music.

Musical artist Malcolm Concept was hired as Daniel's nanny, but Ferrazzi really wanted him to teach his son how to rap. Daniel took to the idea, and once he understood how to put his feelings into music, he was able to develop a voice—a means to articulate his feelings.

The results were nothing less than extraordinary. Daniel's angry outbursts were tempered, he could engage in meaningful conversations with his father and others, and his grades went up to mostly As and Bs.

Today, Words2Life is a rap-based program that helps at-risk kids and is based on Daniel's own transformative experience. Ferrazzi tells TakePart, "We got such amazing results, we decided to do it for other foster kids and decided to roll it out as a formal foundation."

The program is currently being launched in two Los Angeles-area schools, Fulton High School and Southgate, with the hope of adding more in the near future.

Ferrazzi is well acquainted with reaching disadvantaged communities. A best-selling author and corporate coach, he's also the founder of Greenlight Giving, an organization currently dedicated to improving the circumstances of children in the U.S. and South America.

Relying on relationship-building and storytelling skills, Ferrazzi's goals include providing children with the tools to connect with others in a meaningful way—essentially eradicating their isolation and making them understand they have a place in this world and a story to contribute to it.

He tells TakePart, "A friend of mine, Peter Gruber, once said, 'Storytelling is emotional transportation.' If I really want to connect with people and open them up to change, story is one of the best mediums," he says. "And music is also a wonderful transportation device for emotional connection. So we've found the two to be very effective."

But Greenlight Giving has other initiatives in addition to Words2Life. CollegeCONNECT teaches college-aged students about what Ferrazzi calls "relational sciences," making them better at building relationships, finding jobs and landing internships. In Guatemala, the Serve and Grow program helps children in small villages pursue education opportunities so they may eventually find employment, breaking them out of their cycle of poverty. Greenlight Giving also offers relational skills to returning U.S. veterans who need to reassimilate into civilian life and land meaningful work.

Currently, Ferrazzi's most immediate goal is to get Words2Life into more schools so it can benefit not only foster kids, but also any child who wants to learn how to express himself. While he's been personally funding Greenlight Giving, Ferrazzi says what's needed now is outside assistance to purchase some much-needed computer equipment.

If you'd like to help the organization reach more children, contact Greenlight Giving through their website to make a donation.

Have you experienced a personal transformation through storytelling? Tell us about it in the Comments.

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