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"From the hut, to the projects, to the mansion" to a public school

Hail a cab this weekend, and your in-ride entertainment may come courtesy of New York City public school students.

Starting today, 12,000 taxis will be featuring this video of students at Fort Greene’s Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters interviewing musician Wyclef Jean. The interview was set up by AOL Music, which is helping run a 12-week journalism apprenticeship program at the school in partnership with the non-profit Citizen Schools.

The full text of the students’ interview is here. Jean told the students about his childhood at P.S. 191 after moving to Brooklyn from Haiti with his family:

Bryonna: Do you remember what you were doing when you were 11 and 12?

Wyclef Jean: Yeah, I was getting a whooping by my moms! Eleven and 12 years old in Brooklyn, I was in [Public School] 191, and I was just trying to figure out how to speak English, ’cause I couldn’t even speak English yet. So I was talking with the accent, very slow, trying to figure it out. I wasn’t bilingual at the time, and there was a class that would teach you English. So, that’s what I was doing at 11 and 12.

(In the video, it sounds like Jean says he went to P.S. 199, but the transcription says P.S. 191 — we’re checking which Brooklyn school he went to.)

Citizen Schools, which has been working in New York City schools since 2009, runs extended-day programs that include apprenticeship programs like this one. Urban Assembly Academy for Arts and Letters is one of five schools around the city that has Citizen Schools volunteers.

The school has also recently been caught up in controversy: last month, the citywide school board voted to allow Arts and Letters to expand over the protests of parents at P.S. 20, which shares its building. P.S. 20 parents argued that the expansion showed favoritism to the school, which has screened admissions and strong support from foundations and programs like Citizen Schools.

The non-profit’s New York City executive director, Nitzan Pelman, is on the advisory board of GothamSchools.

(UPDATE: This post has been updated to clarify the programs the Citizen Schools runs.)

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