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My name is Rajnii Eddins, and I am a mentor, a spoken word/hip hop artist, and an arts educator.
I was contacted in January of 2017 by Lee Ann Donner, the former mentoring coordinator of Spectrum, who invited me to create a rap in celebration of mentoring to be performed at the statehouse for National Mentoring Month. I was very excited about the idea, and agreed to begin working on a piece with the understanding that I would be able to bring my mentee, Ethan Katon, to perform the piece with me and share the positive experience of expressing the value of mentorship together. I chose the “So Gone Challenge” instrumental used by Monica, a popular R&B artist, because I knew it would be familiar to youth and that it would be a fun twist to celebrate mentorship through the lens of hip hop. I titled the song “I Will Succeed” as a way of positively affirming and inspiring youth on their journey to becoming productive and contributing community members as well as celebrating mentors’ valuable role in this endeavor.
It was such an exciting and engaging experience to share the song and open up for the governor at the statehouse. The crowd was a mixture of youth mentees and mentors, as well as other elders, political representatives, and mentorship organizations. What an amazing experience to see everyone participate in call and response repeating the chorus “I Will Succeed” in unison.
After sharing such a wonderful experience with my mentee, an idea came to me that this song would make a wonderful video and perhaps be a useful tool/PSA in encouraging community members to mentor, and illustrating the value it plays in the role of youth and community in general. I reached out to Benji Thurber, communications director of Mobius, and he was just as excited about the idea. We set a meeting with my good friend and amazing teacher/videographer Pete Wyndorf, who took to the idea as well and agreed to team up for this most exciting and inspiring project. We were able to set a few different prime locations for filming such as King Street Center, as well as the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, and everyone showed exuberant enthusiasm for the project that definitely shines through in the video. An additional feather in our cap was having Pete’s access to a drone camera and getting to film on the rooftop of the King Street Center. The joy seen on the faces of the children and the mentors definitely helps to display the facile connection between mentorship and positive community development. I am excited to see the video “I Will Succeed” inspire a great many more to become mentors and share this positive role in the lives of a youth.
Positive affirmation can make all the difference in a young person’s world. This is a great message and a very important one to remember. The value in encouraging youth to be their best and brightest selves cannot be overstated. I am honored to have participated in such a wonderful project, thankful to everyone who participated, and am definitely looking forward to more collaborations for this purpose. I hope it inspires you too!
“I will succeed…I will succeed…I will succeed…I will succeed…because I keep it positive in my thoughts, words, and deeds!”
About the videographer:
My name is Pete Wyndorf and I am a public educator at Milton High School, focusing on creative media and global studies. I am passionate about giving young people as much love, support, guidance, and affirmation as I possibly can, and it is for this reason that I readily agreed to collaborate with my good friend Rajnii Eddins.
The project started with the song, “I Will Succeed,” which is such a simple, yet dynamic affirmation, and Rajnii and I immediately began to visualize how this project might look and come together. We shot over two days, incorporating different locations and youth mentoring partnerships, Rajnii’s beautiful personality and music, and an improvisational spirit. The result was a wonderful combination of human spirit, synergy with the spaces in which we shot video, and tremendous positive energy. I spent a few weeks editing the project together and experimenting with different versions, but was guided by the spirit with which we executed the production, which was pretty loose and open to creative opportunities.
I had a blast working with all the wonderful adults and young people in this project, and hope that it spreads its positive message and call to action far and wide. Rajnii’s song is what makes this project so exceptional, his gift of communication and unfiltered positive energy and support for young people is contagious.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of this process and facilitated in making this video happen.
Individuals featured in this video:
King Street Mentees and Youth:
Najima, Amina, Uson, Batula, Maslah, Ziree, Rahma, Jace, Salima, Bibashi, Nyla, Aden, Kaung, Rohan, Apshir, Omar, Mohamed, Nyankor, Hawa, Gaston, Dahabo, Alex, Espoir, Yusuf, Filibin, Ngang, Ayan, Kadar, Djamal, Neema, Rotha, Bassiru, Halima, Tom, Jasper, Charite, Deng
King Street Mentors: Hunter Townsend, Alyssa Malone
Milton Mentors Pair: Lisa Bongiorno and Tiana
King Street Center Staff: Rosie Czech, Deena Murphy
And filmmaker’s daughter, Sage