East Palo Alto teacher wins Richmond Award

Stephen Ashford earns Dennis Richmond Community Impact Award for work with at-risk and underprivileged students

East Palo Alto Charter School physical education teacher Stephen Ashford, who has built a reputation as a rap artist who makes videos to inspire children under the moniker Kontac, has won this year's Dennis Richmond Community Impact Award for his work with at-risk and underprivileged students in East Palo Alto and Richmond.

"He is such an inspiration for students at our school. They gravitate to him and to his music," East Palo Alto Charter School Principal Laura Ramirez said.

Ashford accepted the top prize of $5,000 at a ceremony March 19 and told East Palo Alto Today the funds will go toward field trips and helping his eighth grade students visit Washington, D.C.

Ashford was chosen over 250 other teachers to receive this year's award, which is named for former KTVU anchor Dennis Richmond and sponsored by Ala Acosta Centers, a Bay Area nonprofit for developmentally disabled youth and adults. The purpose of the Dennis Richmond Community Impact Award "is to recognize three individuals who have inspired and empowered children and youth in the community through their position at a public school," according to the center website.

When Ashford isn't teaching physical education to kindergarteners through eighth graders or energizing them with lively morning announcements as Mr. Steve, he is a rapper known as Kontac. He was instrumental in bringing Bay Area rappers together to encourage schoolchildren to stay on track with the inspirational music video "Stay in School" in 2008.

His latest project, the product of collaboration with Ala Costa students with developmental disabilities, is an empowering rap called "Heartbeat." It was released on iTunes April 5. 70 cents from each 99 cent purchase is donated to Ala Costa programs.

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Like this comment
Posted by Sundance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:36 am

Way to go Stephen! Keep up the good work!!!We are so proud of you!!! There are so many people in our community doing great work...thanks for adding to the beauty!

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Let's hope the government doesn't show a poor example of itself by being shut down when the students visit. Very, very generous that a teacher, who doesn't make a lot of money, would put his prize money towards the kids. Very humbling.

Like this comment
Posted by barbra
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm

My son plays football with his son. His son is real real good glad we is doing good things in East Palo Alto much needed

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Nice write up,I will buy the single on I-Tunes just on the fact its a good cause and I don't even like rap music much.

Like this comment
Posted by FRANK
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm


Like this comment
Posted by Contratulations
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I am glad good things are happening to students in EPA. Even though they are already doing better because they have been staying alive, unlike our PAUSD students. EPA students might be poor, but they are resilient. That is something we need to work on in PAUSD.

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