Located upstairs at W.E.B. DuBois High School at 402 Eastern Parkway, the New York WEB Center is a mecca for young people with an interest in music and media. Started by Reverend William Grant several years ago in the cafeteria of the school, the WEB Center now occupies a modern and comfortable space on the second floor.

The WEB Center offers students from area high schools the opportunity to experience what Center manager Alecia Mason calls “mentoring through technology” as they exercise their creativity while working in a variety of different media. Equipped with computers that house graphic design software, as well as an audio recording studio, DJ equipment, and video cameras, students generate ideas for projects that matter to them and then are able to complete them in a professional way. This exciting work happens both in after-school sessions and during Hip Hop Academy music classes during the school day which teach the history of hip hop in addition to allowing time to work on independent and group projects.

Students at work in the recording studio.

The students’ projects offer them a creative outlet for expressing themselves and the issues that are important in their lives. When cell phones were banned from the school, students in the WEB program who disagreed with the policy wrote a rap song about their disgruntled feelings on the matter, with the line “Why I can’t use my phone?” and produced a music video to go with it. The school principal then rapped a song in response, which detailed the reasons why students cannot bring their phones to school. The principal’s response was played over the school’s intercom system, both highly entertaining the students and opening up new methods of communication within the school setting. Students in the WEB program have also produced a school reality show called “Noise in Dubois,” a song and music video about Barack Obama, and are now working on a series of songs for an AIDS awareness campaign.

The staff at the WEB Center treat the students like they are members of a record label, encouraging them to promote themselves and their work on MySpace and to develop press kits. Regardless of what field students decide to pursue after high school and their time in the WEB program, Alecia Mason says the skills of leaning how to take an idea, develop it creatively, and ultimately complete it will help students in any area. Though the content of the program has to do with media, a main focus of the program is encouraging youth development. The WEB Center is run in conjunction with the PRIDE Youth Development Agency, which works toward developing Personal growth, Responsibility, Initiative and integrity, Development of self and community, and Economic empowerment in young people. Together, the PRIDE Agency and the WEB Center are working to provide positive opportunities and the chance to develop media skills to the young people involved in their program.