A lucky graduating class of 114 students in a Harlem high school received the greatest opportunity, thanks to Pharrell. The 46-year-old musician announced at Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy graduating ceremony, that he would offer each student an internship after their first year of college. In his keynote speech, Pharrell promised the students internships, and urged them to be “awake” and “engaged” and not just “woke.”
“So let me be clear, every member of the 2019 graduating class, is guaranteed an internship waiting for them, you, next summer,” he said. “It’s one thing to be ‘woke,’ another to be awake, leaned in, and engaged.”
In a statement to Buzzfeed News, the school’s CEO Anne Williams-Isom said the partnership between the school and Pharrell is an effort to provide oftentimes—underprivileged students—better access to career opportunities and connections that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“In order for us to get our community, these children, and these families out of poverty, we want to make sure that they are connected to a livable wage,” Williams-Isom shared. “And we know that for so many of our young people, the way that they’re going to be able to do that is with that college degree in their hands, but also with some experience from very good internships that they will be able to do while they’re in college.”
Students at the Academy were obviously pleased with the prospect, and class valedictorian of the school, Jada Warmington, spoke on the behalf of her grade.
“When he guaranteed my entire class with an internship, I knew that this a stepping-stone into something great,” Warmington said. “I just knew that next summer was gonna be the summer for me, because I was a little bit worried about going into college and not knowing what’s next, like how am I gonna prepare for internships for the fall and summer, especially the really competitive one.”
Watch the video above to see Pharrell’s speech.