*A few years ago, Kevin “Khao” Cates was at the top of the music industry and producing chart topping records for Hip Hop’s elite stars such as Pharrell, Jay-Z, T.I., Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, R Kelly and others. Bridge da gap.
However, despite the presence the multi-platinum, Grammy nominated producer had in music, he decided to channel his engineering prowess into what he believed was his true calling – making a difference in the lives of young people.
Cates is the founder of Bridge Da Gap (BDG), a 501c3 non-profit organization designed to address the social and emotional needs of inner-city and disadvantaged youth. Recognizing that many schools nationwide were failing and that teachers lacked the training and resources to address the unique needs of underprivileged students, he wanted to do something about it.
“My dad always told me it’s one thing to be successful, and another thing to be significant and leave a legacy behind,” Cates said. “I carry those words with me everywhere I go.”
And carry them he has.
BDG is a curriculum that teaches character building and life skills through music. It includes a text book, a DVD and online lessons that are taught by both Cates and renowned television and film actress, Meagan Good. There are twelve chapters, accompanied by songs that Cates produced himself, covering topics like gangs, bullying, drug abuse, self-determination and coping with the death of loved ones. In many of America’s roughest neighborhoods, these lessons can prove life-saving.
“I always liked helping and mentoring kids, I often told myself that if I didn’t do music I would do teaching,” he said. “People thought I was crazy to step away from the music and spend one million dollars of my own money, leaving millions of dollars behind in the industry.
I had no formal education experience, but I relied on God and it has really been a faith walk ever since,” he said.
The sacrifices by Cates have certainly not gone unnoticed. BDG has garnered support from education experts, churches and celebrities. People like Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation; pro football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, and renowned scholar Dr. Ben Carson have jumped on the advisory board. Not to mention, numerous schools throughout the U.S. and Nassau, Bahamas have aligned with the group, like Best Academy in Atlanta, which was among the first to enter a partnership with the organization.
Another school, Bear Creek Middle School in Atlanta, for example, saw office referrals drop 41% and the schoolwide grade point average rise from a 2.0 to 2.3 as a result of the curriculum. It did not take long for educators and schools to reach out to Cates to learn how his organization generated the results. From there, they asked for advice on how to improve test scores.
The answer? A curriculum called Koolriculum, which incorporates technology, Hip Hop music and a scholastic program that meets all general U.S. academic standards. Cates entered the studio again to produce more than 600 songs that tie into various subjects within mathematics, science, social studies and English. Lesson plans are completely customizable and teachers can select playlists to coincide with their daily agendas. Students are able access these customized assignments at home on their computers, cell phones and tablets. The programs are so complete and detailed that Cates is receiving requests for appearances and trainings across the country, and a company sponsor, who cannot yet be named, is working with him on a 20 city tour. The future appears limitless.
Overall, Cates’ mission to revolutionize education for students has resulted in this emerging leader becoming one of the most sought after in the field, and as a self-proclaimed country boy from Montgomery, Alabama, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“BDG has been a true blessing going on eight years,” said Cates. “It is evidence based, we have a team of amazing and experienced individuals and we are really making a difference. I can’t wait to see how far this can go and I encourage people to support the movement.”
Bridge Da Gap Overview (Part 1)
Bridge Da Gap Overview (Part 2-Where We Are Now)