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.