We’ve seen individuals spring into action to create impromptu food banks for neighbors and watched major corporations re-imagine their expertise to create hand sanitizer, masks, and more.
However, one of the biggest challenges in the time of COVID-19 is how to manage remote online learning for millions of students. Sneakers, education and the NBA all recently intersected with the help of technology in a demonstration of adaptation and resilience.
Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway is not only a celebrated basketball athlete but also a major sneakerhead off the courts. Many fans know that he recently founded his own line called LGKicks.
Galloway credits an online course, Sneaker Essentials from Yellowbrick (developed with Fashion Institute of Technology) with giving him the knowledge he needed to build his LGKicks brand.
The course is part of a larger educational platform called Yellowbrick.co founded by Rob Kingyens.
Galloway was en route to meet in person with 40 New York City school children who were also taking the course to explore history, math, literature, and business when issues around COVID-19 first started to slow all things down as people tried to make sense of the best moves to make.
While those decisions played out, Galloway was able to FaceTime with the students from one of the last games he played before the NBA went dark. With video captured from the game and the depth of the course itself, students who are now being home-schooled are being motivated to learn by using these tools – for free thanks to Yellowbrick.
While those decisions played out, Galloway was able to FaceTime with the students about his love for sneakers, the program, and the importance of education. This was right before one of the last games he played before the NBA went dark. This action turned out to be the perfect segway for students who are now being home-schooled remotely via screens and are being motivated to learn by using these tools of the course – all for free thanks to Yellowbrick.
By focusing on something I was passionate about, I found I could dive into all kinds of things that I’d found difficult to focus on before. All of a sudden, education made sense … and I started to excel in and outside of school.Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway, an NBA basketball athlete and major sneakerhead
The course content and materials are accessible by visiting www.yellowbrick.co/PTE. Given that the course is a unique educational approach that leverages intense passion in order to learn, it has already shown measurable success in New York City-based public school pilot programs prior to the onset of COVID-19.
The program is available in public schools in New York and Los Angeles, but one of the standout points is that the program also provides a unique interdisciplinary STEAM learning experience. This learning can be integrated into a variety of educational settings and subjects in science, technology, engineering, art and math. Now it’s all available remotely.
I had the opportunity to interview Kingyens digitally amidst a very demanding time of strategy creation around distance learning for the program:
Lauren deLisa Coleman: So, how did you get the idea for Yellowbrick and the sneaker course?
Rob Kingyens: I started Yellowbrick after having worked for Cornell University’s online learning group. I saw the value in online learning and the wealth of talent that top-tier universities can bring to it, but I wanted to move in a different direction.
You see, when I was a younger student myself, I struggled. I had difficulty finding the right motivation to really dig into the material, and as a teenager, I really struggled to find the connection and relevancy of traditional education to what I really cared about. It wasn’t until I discovered something that I was truly passionate about — media, music, technology, and videography — that things started to click. By focusing on something I was passionate about, I found I could dive into all kinds of things that I’d found difficult to focus on before. All of a sudden, education made sense through the lens of my passions, and I started to excel in and outside of school.
So, coming out of Cornell, I wanted to meld these two ideas: passion-focused learning and top-tier, academic-based instruction. I also found that partnering with leading media brands enabled us to get influencers who could speak to the current movements in any industry. Yellowbrick was born.
The biggest challenge is in taking something that was meant to teach adults the ins-and-outs of an industry across five distinct modules and adapting it to work within the context of a regular school day.Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway, an NBA basketball athlete and major sneakerhead
After two years of success with our FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and Complex joint venture — Sneaker Essentials — we started talking with Dr. Shango Blake, a K-12 educational consultant and former educator known in wide circles as the “Hip-Hop Principal.” As a Queens, NY school Principal in the early ’80s, he used his students’ interest in hip hop to encourage learning. He built a video program around their interests and one video that they produced for a class-written hip-hop song even went to the Tribeca Film Festival. When he saw what we were doing, he recognized the value immediately and started introducing us to his connections in NYC public schools. Even though our courses are designed primarily for young professionals looking to move into passion industries, we all believed they could be tailored for middle- and high-school students.
Principal George Patterson of Meyer Levin (junior high school) in East Flatbush, NY, was the first to pick up on it. He introduced a pilot in his school ahead of the 2019 Juneteenth celebration. Our staff worked directly with the school to rework the curriculum, retro-fit it to class periods, and help onboard his teachers. After a very successful pilot, they adopted a larger program for the whole school year and have been using it ever since — and has resulted in us expanding this program to all teachers and schools during COVID-19.
LdC: What are the biggest challenges around implementing this offering?
Rob Kingyens: The biggest challenge is in taking something that was meant to teach adults the ins and outs of an industry across five distinct modules and adapting it to work within the context of a regular school day.
Our team worked hand-in-hand with the teachers and staff at Meyer Levin to pull apart the sneakers course materials and put them back together in ways that not only allowed them to fit class time but also opened space for them to tie in the other lessons the classes were doing in literature, history, math, etc. It took months, but it was well worth it. The kids in those classes love the work. They’re performing better in their other subjects as well because they’re able to relate back to projects that they’re really passionate about.
“Now, because of all the work we did last year, we’re able to open up these materials to thousands of teachers and parents with a real need — keeping their kids motivated to learn while schools are closed.
LdC: What has response been like?
Rob Kingyens: The kids at Meyer Levin as well as other New York City schools that have been integrating the program, have really impressed and encouraged us. The creativity and drive they bring to their projects has been nothing short of inspiring.
We’re hoping that this effect will be duplicated in home settings via online access and that it will help parents, teachers, and students through what will be a very difficult time. As we get more and more pickup of the course, we’d like to see the program grow. We’re already looking into adapting our other courses in music, fashion, streetwear, and sports for use in similar settings.
We’re all living through some very anxious days right now, but the hope is that some of the programs and lessons that come out of this will benefit students for years to come.
Because of all the work we did last year, we’re able to open up these materials to thousands of teachers and parents with a real need — keeping their kids motivated to learn while schools are closed.NBA star and sneakerhead Langston Galloway is motivating kids kept home by the COVID-19 crisis to learn through online courses. Photo credit: Yellowbrick