Special Education Counselor Creates Music Video to Advocate for Students
By day he is Mr. O’Brien, classroom counselor at Camelot KAPS (K–6 Alternative Pupil Support), an alternative school in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia for elementary school students with behavioral and emotional disorders. By night he is “Lukey The Bird,” rap music artist.
O’Brien has merged his two careers in a music video called, “Just Kids,” a production intended to focus attention on the daunting obstacles to his students’ success while urging adults to do more to solve the problem.
The musical lyrics are based on what O’Brien and his colleagues see and successfully work to improve every day.
Just Kids, God sent them
Just Kids, the system’s against them
Someone’s gotta right the wrongs
And someone’s gotta fight for y’all
“I come from a drastically different world than a lot of my kids and for that reason, I learn just as much from them as they do from me,” O’Brien said. “These kids have so much to offer this world but I fear that their environments are going to keep them from living up to their potential. They’re just kids and they deserve love. They deserve a chance just like everyone else.”
Camelot KAPS serves approximately 80 special education elementary school students unable to succeed in the traditional school environment. (The students are referred to Camelot from Mastery Charter’s nine Philadelphia elementary schools. Camelot also serves Philadelphia public schools with other alternative education programs.)
“These students in many cases have been dealt an unfair hand but they love coming to school here and over time they are able to dramatically improve their behavior and academics,” said Camelot KAPS executive director Brian Bienkowski. “Anyone walking into one of our classes would assume it is a typical elementary school classroom. They would not readily see the challenges these kids face.”
The reality of what Camelot KAPS students are up against is reflected in the words Lukey The Bird’s rap.
It starts with the parents, parenting’s atrocious
Home life is chaos; they’re raised to be ferocious
But it’s not their fault because they too are victims
It’s the war, the cycle, the hate, the system
“Every word in the song, just like everything we do at school, is about advocating for these kids,” said O’Brien, a graduate of Loyola University Maryland. “Rap is about life’s experiences, good and bad. These kids have seen a lot of bad at a young age and we want them to realize with education and love they can see and do a lot of good.”
But you have to stay tolerant
You gotta have hope somethin’s gotta give
You have to believe because if one of them succeeds
And they go off to college
That’s a double positive
In addition to trying to bring as much as attention as possible to the plight of poor children in Philadelphia, Lukey The Bird has posted his video on a donation site to raise money to buy students gifts like the blue school sweatshirts many of them proudly wear.
This post was originally published in March, 2015.