“She goes to school. Feels uncertain about who she is. Tryin to hide behind the curtain so she lashes out. Out of fear of bein’ known, inside and out.”
These words come from our Rocketeers’ work in Queenhype’s award-winning short film “Jagged.” The girls who wrote, directed, and starred in this movie are only 6-12 years old. Yet they used their voices and their art to show the struggle of a young girl, in school and in her community; to be okay with who she is. The girl eventually embraces who she is, inside and out, with the help of her other ‘queens.’ Queenhype partnered with San Jose Digital Arts to write and shoot this first short film to bring awareness to mental illness and violence in socio- economically disadvantaged communities.
QueenHype is an empowerment club that acts as a safe space for girls to confront their insecurities and move forward from them by establishing a strong sense of self-love and purpose. The skills we’re developing in QueenHype are improving not only their personal lives, but also their academic success, putting them on the path to tackle college and their careers with courage. QueenHype inspires our female Rocketeer students to find their voice, their confidence, and their reason to make their mark in history.
As an organization, we have a residency at the Roosevelt Community Center right in downtown San Jose where we hold our weekend program and stay involved in the community and its events. Our rambunctious little girls never fly under the radar and have a strong presence in whatever we do. During an open mic night hosted by the SJ Digi Arts department at the center, the girls took home prizes after winning best acts. From then, the department knew they had to collaborate with our girls on their next project.
The theme for the Youth Film festival was already in place. The girls were to come up with a way to create awareness for mental illness. We held a session to brainstorm ideas and we were all so impressed with their focus, creativity and how in tune they are with Rocketship’s core values and philosophies. They all jumped at the chance to be involved and incorporate their ideas. Each girl was so excited to have a hand in each role of production with the amazing help of the staff at SJ Digi Arts. Leadership skills, inclusion, and individuality are just a few of many traits we witnessed shine through our girls throughout the entire production from start to finish.
Once the project concluded, their sense of accomplishment was through the roof. Their commitment and hard work after school once a week for almost a month definitely paid off. The premier was a red carpet event and every girl shined brighter than Hollywood stars. Families and friends beamed with pride and joy. Queen Hype and their film, Jagged, were undeniably the crowd favorite. The girls took front row to see the fruits of their labor on the big screen and were even invited to speak on camera about their experiences in Queen Hype and how their participation has made such an amazing impact.
Queen Hype was honored to have this incredible opportunity and to announce that we took first place in the film festival receiving a 1000 dollar grant. It is one of our biggest accomplishments to-date.
However, we are hungry for more ways to showcase our talents and be even more involved in the community. This spring we will be continuing to support local women and children shelters with clothing, book and toiletry drives. In Queen Hype, we emphasize social impact and community building and our girls are kicking off a new campaign #HypedToHeal and will be bringing awareness to Human Trafficking in the Bay Area.
This spring we have plans of expansion. We will be holding a professional development this spring for educators interested in bringing the program to their school and are excited that many of our Rocketship schools will have campus leads that will bring this wonderful means of empowerment to all of our girls. The success of the program at Rocketship Discovery Prep has allowed us to pilot a group at Rocketship Brilliant Minds, and hopefully more campuses to come. The success of our program wouldn’t be possible without the immense support of Rocketship, Coca Cola, The City of San Jose and The Office of Councilman Raul Peralez. This month, Queen Hype will be holding its 1st annual fundraising gala to celebrate a year of service and the city of San Jose will honor our girls as community leaders.
LaToya started her career at Rocketship as a member of the support staff team. She transitioned to an enrichment coordinator then a Rocketship tutor (ILS) before becoming a fifth grade humanities teacher at Discovery Prep. LaToya is currently a social justice and culture teacher and the founder of Queen Hype. She graduated from Newbury College in Boston where she studied Media writing and English.