People on the Flocabulary team have diverse backgrounds, but share a common goal. We are committed to not only increasing academic achievement, but to fostering a love of learning in every student.
Since co-founding Flocabulary in 2004, Alex has been responsible for defining the company's strategic vision and building the business from the ground up. A musician by training, Alex has bootstrapped Flocabulary into a rapidly-growing, mission-driven edtech company that now reaches millions of students.
Named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business in 2018, Alex is a regular author and speaker on education and entrepreneurship. His articles have appeared in The Hill, Entrepreneur and EdSurge, and he has spoken at conferences and events including Smart Cities, Creative Mornings, TedX and The Yidan Prize Summit in Hong Kong. Alex is a member of the Nationswell Council and has served as a mentor for 4.0 Schools and the StartEd Accelerator. He is also the creator of Big Idea Week, a community-driven entrepreneurship program for elementary and middle schools. Alex graduated from Tufts University and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Blake co-founded Flocabulary in 2004, having dreamt up the idea as a high school student who loved music and disliked flashcards. As the Chief Product Officer, he sets the product and creative vision of Flocabulary. Having originally written many Flocabulary songs himself, Blake now oversees a 40+ member team of in-house and freelance artists, researchers, writers and product managers. He and his team work to ensure that everything Flocabulary produces improves learning outcomes and makes students and teachers smile.
Blake received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. He's worked with students across the country as a tutor, workshop leader, counselor and coach. He walks or bikes to work whenever possible.
Francis makes moving images. Since joining our roster of freelance artists in 2011, Francis has produced over 120 videos with Flocabulary. He studied illustration, animation and photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design and has over eight years of experience teaching extra curricular art, language and computer classes to children K'-5.
Francis works remotely from his personal studio and considers his work a satisfying and surreal form of professional penpalhood.
Ike Ramos is both a K12 Partnerships Manager and Artist at Flocabulary. Ike attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor's and honed his skills as a DJ, producer and MC. While in Austin, he released several projects and shared stages with many hip-hop legends including Method Man, Guru, Buckshot, Lil Wayne, Rakim and others. After graduating from UT, Ike began teaching and coaching at the high school level. Soon after, he received his master's in educational leadership from Texas State University, and transitioned into school administration. He has served as both an assistant principal and principal at both the elementary and secondary level. Ike currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, where he loves creating new music, playing basketball, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.
Formerly a Brooklyn middle school teacher, John Vincent endeavored to grow his career by working in sales and support at major tech companies and is thrilled to bring his passion for children's education and tech to Flocabulary.
As a native New Yorker, "JV" finds himself rapping 'Christmas In Hollis' by Run DMC to people he meets who have never heard of his hometown of Hollis, Queens. He holds degrees in Engineering and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. He is an avid practitioner of Brazilian jiujitsu and loves taking road trips with his wife, Allison.
Katie joined the creative team at Flocabulary after 10 years as a magazine writer and editor. She is delighted to be working with such a talented and enthusiastic group of people. She graduated from Amherst College, where she studied English and French, sang in the concert choir and worked at the preschool on campus. Outside of work, you'll find her walking around Prospect Park, cooking good food and reading anything she can get her hands on. She has a steadfast love for Harry Potter and believes in baking as therapy.
Kenéz Vetési-Szabados was born and raised in a small town called Gyergyószentmiklós, on the eastern side of Transylvania. Twelve years ago, he found his passion for editing and animation when he accidentally landed a job at a local TV station. Working on Flocabulary's educational videos for children gives him joy and an extra boost with each new project. Besides his work, he spends his time with his fiancée, trimming his bonsai trees and playing with his two cats.
Noah Souder-Russo aka NSR is a native New Yorker, DJ, rapper, producer and performer. As a DJ, he has toured around the world including a North American tour with Icona Pop and a three month residency in Tokyo. As a rapper he has released two studio albums and shared the stage with Kid Cudi, The LOX and T.O.K, to name a few. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Lindsay wrote her college application essay about her love of community, so it's no surprise to anyone that nearly a decade later, she's joined Flocabulary as master of all things community, spearheading strategy for Flocab's Master Certified Educator program. She spends most of her time chatting with the incredible educators who help to make Flocab's product even better. A sweet gig, if you ask her.
Residing right off the Upper East Side Q line, Lindsay was born and raised in NYC and joins Flocab after years of working in community + content strategy in the media startup space. When she's not watching "The West Wing" for the nth time, you can find Lindsay busting a move in a Beyoncé dance class, solving her Rubik's cube or searching for the perfect Party Parrot Slack emoji.
He is also a rapper who writes and records Flocab songs. You can probably find him rapping in dimly lit music venues around NYC or watching the Boston Celtics with a large bag of Smartfood popcorn.
Growing up in NYC, Christopher happily immersed himself deep in hip-hop culture. He made beats, wrote rhymes, produced artists and filmed music videos, while documenting everything along the way. His love for hip-hop led to a degree in Music Electronic Technology which landed him as Engineer at a leading music studio, working with such storytellers as Pharoahe Monch, Pete Rock, and Anthony Hamilton. He then transitioned into the emerging audiobook world and worked on Grammy award-winning pieces for Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, and Audible. He was also able to hone his directing skills by working with voice talents such as Kate Winslet, Paul Giamatti, and Alan Alda, amongst others.
Christopher's passions for cinematography, storytelling, hip-hop, and technology have found a perfect outlet at Flocabulary. He is able to thrive through content creation and continues to add to his portfolio of experiences.
Luis was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. His first programming memory was coding games in python during high school. After studying computer science and philosophy at UT Austin, he spent a lot of time traveling around Europe as well as a short time in South Korea. Then he joined Flocabulary as a software engineer, where he adds new features to the web application. When he's not coding or traveling, Luis loves to DJ and play soccer.
Madeleine Welsch is an illustrator & motion graphics artist hailing from rural Massachusetts, where she grew up among a family of educators. After earning a degree in Communication Design and Digital Media from Skidmore College, Madeleine worked as a freelance illustrator for clients like Panoply and Gimlet Media. At Flocab, she’s excited to create engaging visuals that integrate her love of music, motion, and learning. When she’s not drawing, Madeleine can be found hiking, baking lemon-infused desserts, and crafting new Spotify playlists.
Rachel’s job as a product manager is to make teaching and learning with Flocabulary as joyful an experience as possible. She joined the product crew after two years on the Flocab curriculum team, where she researched video topics from ratios to text structure. Before coming on board at Flocabulary, Rachel worked as an instructional designer, planning and writing interactive training simulations on behavioral health topics. When she's not in the office, you can find her writing a play, curled up with a book, or jogging slowly through Prospect Park. She has a B.A. in English from Columbia University.
Before moving to New York in 2013, Rebekah taught 6th grade English Language Arts as a Teach for America Rhode Island Corps Member. She holds a BA from Brown University and recently completed an MFA in creative writing at The New School. Rebekah is thrilled to be a part of the creative department at Flocabulary, where she can combine her passions for writing and education.
Dawn Ulley’s 20-year career in education began as a high school English teacher. Before joining Flocabulary, she founded the implementation team of ABCmouse for Schools. She had previously served as VP, Early Literacy for Achieve3000, fostering partnerships with more than 700 schools. Dawn also served as the first director of implementation for Lexia Learning, a Rosetta Stone Company. Prior to that role, she was the executive director of New York City for Voyager Sopris Learning, where her efforts helped to significantly improve New York City students’ literacy skills. Dawn got her start in professional development as a senior literacy consultant for America’s Choice (Pearson) schools in New York City, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Philadelphia. Throughout her global work with students and teachers, Dawn looks to bring student voice and engagement to the forefront of classroom instruction.
Jesse is a Grammy nominated Engineer who specializes in Mixing and Music Production. Credits include Drake, Glen Hansard, Craig Finn, Babeo Baggins. He studied Music Production at James Madison University and began engineering at Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn, NY. He now works at Jungle City Studios and Oven Studios, owned and operated by Alicia Keys and multi-Grammy award-winning engineer, Ann Mincieli.
Hailing from Houston’s Third Ward, Fat Tony (born Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu) is a Nigerian-American rapper who has played an integral role in shaping the Houston rap scene. Heavily influenced by renowned local rappers like Lil’ Flip, Fat Tony began making music and playing live shows in 2004, a time when there wasn’t much of a scene for young artists in Houston. In 2010, Fat Tony released his innovative debut full-length project RABDARGAB, produced by Tom Cruz. The album paved the way for a new Houston sound, bringing to the forefront the unique perspective of a Nigerian-American Houston-native, along with sonically dense and dynamic production. Fat Tony’s second studio album Smart Ass Black Boy, released in 2013 on Young One Records, was well-received by critics for its warm, laid-back vibe. With stand-out tracks like “BKNY,” “Hood Party,” and the album’s eponymous track, the project was listed by Houston Press as one of the “11 Best Houston Releases of 2013.” The rapper won awards in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 for Best Underground Hip Hop at the Houston Press Music Awards, and has worked on groundbreaking collaborations with the likes of Das Racist and A$AP Rocky.
Photo by Mekael Dawson
Chris was born on the Southside of Chicago, where music, art and culture nurtured his curiosity and motivated him to pick up the trumpet at an early age. After middle school in Chicago, he joined the A Better Chance program of Wilton, an organization that recruits inner city youths and provides the necessary resources for them to live in Wilton, Connecticut and attend Wilton High School.
After high school, Chris enrolled at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he continued to perform and study music as well as play Rugby. He was a member of The Amherst College Big Band Ensemble as well as a small jazz combo named Emanon. He also served as President of Jazz operations. During this time at Amherst, Chris also began experimenting with music production as well as sound design.
After graduating, he returned to Chicago and started off working as a high school english teacher. Shortly after, Chris took a job in operations at the Kellogg School of Management's Executive Education department. He additionally interned at night at a recording studio called Classick Studios. At Classick, Chris worked and trained with the studio's in house audio engineers, eventually leading to work with artists from all over Chicago.
Now that Chris has returned back to the East Coast, he is excited for the opportunity to work for Flocabulary. He truly believes in the power of hip-hop and is ecstatic to promote such a phenomenal learning tool.
Petar had made animations for Flocabulary since 2014. He studied printing technology at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Computer graphics has been a passion and hobby since childhood when he first tried to make a computer game with a friend. That game wasn't a big hit, but it fostered a love for graphics and animation that has flourished these past 15 years.
Sarah's passion for education started in grad school, when she taught a required writing course to Penn State freshmen. After graduating with an MA in English, she worked in media while secretly yearning to get back into education. She believes in the power of engagement and fun in the classroom, which is why she believes in Flocabulary. Outside of work, Sarah loves dogs, reading and writing, and learning (or spouting) fun historical facts.
King David Tolen lll is an African-American rapper, singer, songwriter and aspiring actor. King Goldie was born in Brooklyn, NY, but raised in the Bronx, NY (the birthplace of hip-hop). Early on, King released of series of freestyle videos, including videos that gained up to 150,00 views on YouTube, and now he's making music and taking it more seriously than ever. King's unique style, sound and versatility separates him from the rest, and the future for this young artist is super bright.
Jess is a Colorado native who moved to NYC to complete the Teach for America program after graduating from CU Boulder. She earned her M.Ed. in Special Education from Hunter College and taught second grade in Harlem for three years. She then worked in an administrative role supporting upper grade teachers at her school, where she realized that a lack of engaging curriculum is a major issue currently facing the public education system. Experiencing the power and efficacy of Flocabulary first-hand in a school environment gave her the inspiration to leave the classroom and join the Customer Success team at Flocab.
Jess wants to help as many teachers and students as possible gain access to Flocabulary, because she believes it will help close the achievement gap and change the educational climate in the US for the better. When Jess is not thinking about educational policy and her favorite Flocab videos, she is probably spending time outdoors, cooking, petting dogs on the sidewalk, or seeing a concert somewhere in the city.
Molly's love of education began when she landed her first job at age 17 as a preschool teacher's aide, where she changed countless diapers and led groups of toddlers in many a nursery rhyme. She studied communications, marketing, and education at Cornell University, where she wrote articles for university publications, co-hosted a radio show and led PR for a children's advocacy organization. After a stint in the crazy world of agency PR, she now blends her background in communications and her passion for education in her sales and partnership work at Flocabulary. When she's off Flocab duty, she can be found scouring food blogs and old cookbooks or traipsing around Alphabet City.
Jennifer grew up in Connecticut, where she studied English at the University of Connecticut and taught 2nd grade. As a teacher, she often incorporated music into her lessons by developing original songs and raps with her former co-teachers (they're still hoping to get signed by Flocabulary). In 2015, she moved to the Big Apple and began working for an education nonprofit in Downtown Brooklyn, managing community outreach and partnerships. This experience afforded her the opportunity to meet inspiring high school students and teachers from across all five boroughs. Eventually, her passion for education and infinite love of music led her to Flocabulary. Outside of the office, you can spot her at a music venue, on a long-distance run in Central Park, or on the beach with a good book!
Sammus (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is an Ithaca-raised, Philadelphia-based rap artist, producer, and PhD student in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Known as much for her rousing stage presence as she is for her prowess as a beatmaker and lyricist, Sammus has spent the past several years cultivating a strong following of activists, hip-hop heads, punks, and self-identified nerds and geeks, among others. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Sammus “has a gift for getting a message across.
Nitty Scott is an Afro-Latina recording artist and poet via New York City. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she later moved to Florida and attended art school as a creative writing major before leaving to Brooklyn at age 17. Scott released her debut street album The Cassette Chronicles in 2011, followed by her critically acclaimed EP The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1 in 2012 and her debut album Art Of Chill in 2014. The self-proclaimed "Rap Game Little Buddha" has now worked with Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Action Bronson and more since her breakthrough at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher. In 2016, she contributed to the score for the Paramount Pictures film Zoolander 2, became an official SPRITE P.O.U.R. artist and the face of the Miller Lite Kickback Series. She later joined the Salaam Remi-produced collective No Panty with fellow spitters Joell Ortiz and Bodega Bamz. Nitty also lends her voice to activism and women's rights, guest speaking at The Ray of Hope Walk, the Sadie Nash Foundation and university panels, as well as performing at The United Nations Peace Day Concert. Whether she's releasing her music solely independent, touring internationally or engaged in community outreach, Nitty's work continues to evolve and expand as a promising lyricist, performer and social justice advocate.
After studying Economics at the University of Maryland, Keisha was mostly drawn to her technology entrepreneurship classes. Prior to joining Flocabulary, Keisha was a part of two tech companies taking roles on both the sales and support sides. Being new to the New York City area she is excited to be a part of the Flocabulary team, and looking forward to exploring the area. In her spare time she enjoys making beats and collaborating with other artists.
Careyanne Deyo joined Flocabulary from Kindermusik International, where she managed a customer loyalty team. Raised in Virginia, Careyanne is happy to be a token Southerner in Brooklyn. A lifelong musician, Careyanne played in ensembles at James Madison University, where she studied International Business. She has a great respect for the impact that music brings to education, and is proud to be on the Flocabulary team.
A Grammy-winning producer with a soulful sound, 9th Wonder has produced for Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, Mary J. Blige, Ludacris and as part of the group Little Brother. 9th Wonder is now an artist in residence with North Carolina Central University's Hip-Hop Initiative.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Gabe decided to bring his passion for marketing, technology and business leadership to an award-winning digital experience agency in the Washington, D.C. area. After a few years, Gabe decided to make the big move to Brooklyn, NY and join Flocabulary as an internal tools product manager. Gabe's excited to work with talented peers to transform classrooms using technology and hip hop.
Outside of work, Gabe enjoys playing basketball, tennis and engaging in outdoor sports like snowboarding or hiking. Although Gabe loves to travel around the world, he’s proud to be born and raised in Bowie, Maryland.
Tavi is an independent hip-hop artist. Her performances range from poetry readings at La Mama to hip-hop shows at Time Square's Nokia Theater. She is also an educator and trainer of the art form, and has led international hip-hop/spoken word workshops for youth and adults. Although self-contained as an emcee, composer and audio engineer, Tavi enjoys the rewards of collaboration and collectivism. She can currently be seen performing around the New York City area with her bands mamarazzi and Illegalize.
A founding member of the innovative hip-hop group Tanya Morgan, Donwill has been making music for over a decade. Originally from Cincinnati and now residing in Brooklyn, he has toured the world making music, sharing the stage and collaborating with Drake, 88 Keys, Ghostface and others. A regular contributor to The Week in Rap, Donwill has also visited schools throughout the country as part of the Flocab crew.
A New York native, Lorena graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Media Communications and Creative Writing in 2014. Since then, she's worn many hats in Flocabulary's Creative Department, parlaying her different interests in writing, video production and current events into her work. In her free time, Lorena does yoga and eats a lot of bread while listening to true crime podcasts and looking for continuity issues in her favorite films.
Doug was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in London. He studied French at King's College London and after graduating decided to continue to pursue his interest in languages by moving to China. Doug then spent two years in China's Yunnan Province, learning Mandarin and teaching english to kids as young as 4. He also memorably rode a bike to Vietnam.
After 6 months at an ed-tech start up in London, Doug decided it was time to finally take up his US citizenship and move to New York. He's now happily settled in Brooklyn and loved his first summer here (spent mainly at the beach).
Devon is both an artist and an educator. Having studied mathematics at Ithaca College, he now now he raps Shakespeare through Hip-Hop as the Sonnet Man.
The protege of Marlon Saunders and a Howard University graduate, this talented jazz and R&B singer has performed at the Blue Note, the Cutting Room, Warm Daddy's and numerous clubs in New York and Philly.
Mervin is both an emcee and a former middle school principal. As an artist, he's recorded albums with Big Daddy Kane and 9th Wonder, and charted Billboard with a hip hop single in the early 2000’s. As an educator, he has been a teacher, assistant principal, and principal in South and North Carolina, where he was awarded Principal of the Year in Chatham County Schools. Prior to joining the team at Flocabulary, Mervin served as an Assistant Director at AVID and spoke at events throughout the country themed around Culturally Relevant Teaching. He now lives in South Carolina.
Lynas began making amateur recordings and beats while at Stuyvesant High School. He soon realized that he had little choice but to make music for a living. After receiving a BFA in Music from the Sonic Arts Center at CCNY, he founded Wonderful Recording Studio in SoHo. Two years later, he moved his operation to ishlab, where his power continues to grow. He has worked with a wide variety of hip-hop artists, including A$AP Rocky, Das Racist, Fat Tony, Group Home, members of Wu-Tang, and many more.
Christopher "Play" Martin is a rapper and actor who achieved fame as half of the late 1980s/early 1990s duo Kid 'n Play. Martin, whose songs have reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles charts, has also starred in numerous feature films including House Party and Class Act. Recently Martin has worked as a teacher at North Carolina Central University and started Brand Newz, a web-based news show with an urban focus.
D-Stroy, born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, has been making music since 1996. A member of The Arsonists, D-Stroy has since toured with a variety of artists, from Kanye West, Eminem and Ludacris to The Roots, L.L. Cool J and Busta Rhymes. He's performed on B.E.T.'s 106 & Park and at Shaquille O'Neal's birthday party. D has been working with Flocabulary since 2008.
Alex was born and raised in Washington Heights, NY. At an early age, he realized his love for learning thanks to the pivotal influence of his grade school teachers. He understood being a dedicated student was the only way to achieve success. He attended specialized middle and high schools to prepared him for the rigorous coursework at Columbia University, where he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. His career has taken him throughout the educational and technical space. His background, passion for hip-hop and eagerness to help educational communities makes him a perfect fit to our Flocabulary family.
Emilio "Reason" Montilla was born and raised in the borough of the Bronx. Having released his first LP, In-Tune, in 2009, he's gone on to perform on stages throughout New York including the Apollo Theatre. He attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and has worked with special education students as an assistant teacher in the Bronx.
This Chicago-born, Brooklyn-raised Puerto Rican and Chinese emcee has made a name for himself as a performance artist and battle rapper. He's appeared in Fight Club, RIX Magazine, and in videos with 50 Cent and Mobb Deep. Grey has also opened for an array of artists including Camron, Obie Trice, and Clipse. He's been contributing to Flocabulary since 2005.
Miss Netty, born and raised in Harlem, is a versatile female emcee with a unique east coast style. Having worked with Flocabulary since 2007, Miss Netty has appeared on numerous albums and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Trajik was born in Queens, New York. A mixtape artist who has gone beyond the confines of that label, Trajik infuses the music he works on with hope, pain, anger and joy. Trajik has released numerous albums and now resides in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dillon V is an Atlanta-based emcee and producer who tutors students in all subjects when he isn't making Dilla-inspired beats and writing rhymes. As a performer, he has toured all over the U.S. and Europe and shared the stage with KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, The Pharcyde, and many more. He has also cooked dinner for Chuck D of Public Enemy.
As a grade school student in New Haven CT, Christina was deeply impacted by Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time which engaged her imagination while teaching her to challenge assumptions. Inspired by the power of storytelling, Christina began her career helping libraries worldwide gain access to high quality academic journals. Now as a School Success Manager at Flocabulary, she hopes to help teachers shape the next generation of avid readers and critical thinkers.
When she’s not re-reading her favorite childhood classics, Christina can be found volunteering to support local non profits or debating the qualities of the perfect slice of pizza.
Tierney graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Masters in Popular Culture in 2009. At the time, she was really into lit and communication theory and wanted to investigate what was going on in contemporary media through those lenses. At the time, she didn't expect to ever find a career that rendered her schooling relevant. She simply didn't know what to do and delayed by staying in school a bit longer. Nearly a decade later, it all makes sense. Tierney is working to shrink the gap between what is interesting to students and what classrooms looks like.
Maddy oversees Flocabulary's finance, HR and operations functions.
The daughter of a linguist and a librarian, she lived on four continents before graduating high school. She visited the Acropolis while learning about Ancient Greece, watched her allowance fluctuate with hyper-inflation in Brazil, and practiced her choppy Mandarin in the night markets of Taipei. As an undergrad, she studied Economics and English at Claremont McKenna College and then got her MBA from the University of Southern California.
Her career has been just as exciting, touching on many sectors (private, non profit, government) and functions (product management, finance, strategy, talent management)...but she is happy to have landed at Flocabulary where she enjoys collaborating with a like-minded, mission-driven team to tackle interesting projects.
In her off hours, Maddy makes her own furniture, runs religiously, globe-trots the world with her family and spends an inordinate amount of time building things out of legos and cardboard boxes with her five-year-old son who is a budding engineer. She happily lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Brett graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas. He then spent four years in Austin, and mostly occupied his time with concerts, vinyl records, BBQ and breakfast tacos. Brett eventually made his way to NYC and is now a resident of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. You may receive a call from Brett "'Flobabulary's version of Jim Halpert" if your school is lucky enough to have Flocabulary or is curious to learn more about us. In his free time, Brett can usually be found enjoying his neighborhood with his wife, Sommer, and their three cats. No, that's not a typo, they really have three cats.
Helen hails from a small town in upstate New York, where she was raised by an amazing family, many of whom are dedicated educators. At a young age she knew that she would grow up to work with institutions of learning. She earned her BA in Political Theory from the University at Albany and her MS in Nonprofit Management from The New School. Since moving to New York City, Helen has taught human rights in an art class, helped a nonprofit loan fund measure impact and supported a software company that assesses institutions of higher education. Her goal is to bring Flocabulary to all teachers who feel it will help their students learn, and every student that feels like learning should be fun.
The idea for Flocabulary first came to co-founder Blake Harrison in high school. A good student who still struggled to memorize facts for tests, he wondered why it was so easy to remember lines to his favorite rap songs but so difficult to memorize the definitions of new vocabulary words. Blake realized that if a rapper released an album that defined SAT vocab words, students would have a fun and effective way to prepare for the SAT.
After studying English at the University of Pennsylvania and rapping at gatherings around Philadelphia, Blake moved out West to San Francisco. In 2003, he met Alex Rappaport, a musician and producer. Alex had studied music at Tufts University and was writing tracks for indie films and producing ringtones for cell phones. Both he and Blake found jobs at a local Italian restaurant to help pay the bills.
During a game of basketball before work one day, Blake mentioned his idea of vocabulary rap to Alex. Alex gave the typical response: "That's a great idea." But he also added something new: "Let's do it."
A month later the duo had a demo recorded. A demo led to a full-length album and corresponding SAT test prep book. That album led to a line of 15 books and CDs, which covered topics ranging from vocabulary to math to science for grades K-12. In 2011, Flocabulary launched a web application to deliver a new library of videos, activities and assessments to teachers, schools and districts. Today, Flocabulary’s online program reaches millions of students in more than 20,000 schools around the world. Wondering what happened in between? See our timeline.
The TimelineThe Early Years - 2004 to 2007
In 2004, Blake Harrison and Alex Rappaport create a demo SAT rap song while working as waiters in the same restaurant in San Francisco. Soon, they produce two more songs for Sparknotes.com and decide to launch their own site. The name Flocabulary is born. By Spring 2005, they’ve created their first album with talented artists on both coasts. A year later, the album and an accompanying book is in bookstores worldwide thanks to a deal with Sterling Publishing. Blake and Alex, having relocated to New York, spend their time performing in schools and working on their follow-up project, Hip-Hop U.S. History, which is praised by Cornel West and Howard Zinn as "extraordinary" and "necessary."
In 2006, Flocabulary wins Columbia Business School's Outrageous Business Plan competition in the social value category and then raises a round of capital from friends, family and angel investors. ABC News reports that Flocabulary helped to raise average SAT scores at one Virginia high school by nearly 60 points. Soon after, Flocabulary is featured on CNN, Fox News, and Geraldo at Large. Geraldo himself exclaims, "I don't care if it's hip-hop or opera, as long as it works!"
In 2007, Flocabulary works with Grammy-winning artist 9th Wonder on Shakespeare is Hip-Hop. Later that year, Flocabulary releases The Word Up Project, a groundbreaking, multileveled vocabulary program. Word Up is an instant hit and is adopted by the Jersey City Board of Education as well as schools throughout the country.An Educational Publishing Company - 2008 to 2011
In 2008, Dr. Roger Farr, former president of the International Reading Association, conducts an independent study to test the efficacy of Flocabulary’s flagship vocabulary program, The Word Up Project. His study finds that program significantly increases vocabulary proficiency among students of diverse backgrounds and that students using the program had higher scores on state reading tests than their academic peers.
Flocabulary launches the Week in Rap, a weekly wrap-up of major current events, and soon partners with Channel One News to distribute the Week in Rap to over 5 million students each week.
In 2009, Flocabulary signs a distribution agreement for The Word Up Project with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which lasts 3 years. Flocabulary continues to publish new content in math, science and social studies and the programs reach students in more than 15,000 schools.An EdTech Startup - 2011 to Infinity
Flocabulary pivots from producing books and CDs to offering a subscription-based online learning program. The company begins producing videos and interactive features to support all of its songs and lessons. All the while, Flocabulary is creating new content for grammar, civics, life skills, financial literacy, as well as ELA and math units aligned to the Common Core.
By 2013, Flocabulary.com has debuted a Common Core search tool, a deeper lesson sequence and a school trial that lets educators around the world take Flocab for a spin.
By summer 2015, new student assessment and reporting tools are debuted to help teachers, schools and districts use Flocabulary to assess knowledge, plan instruction and diagnose needs for differentiation and intervention. Flocabulary also rolls out the Week in Rap Junior, a weekly resource that uses stories from the news to teach elementary students, and launches the Flocabulary Impact Fund to provide free subscriptions to teachers and schools in need.
In 2016, Flocabulary collaborates on two videos with Bill and Melinda Gates and on another with the UN, which leads to a chance to perform in the General Assembly in a ceremony that includes Sec. General Ban Ki-Moon, Jane Goodall and Stevie Wonder. 2016 also brings two grants from the New Schools Venture Fund and an investment from Rethink Education.
The fall of 2016 brought the release of Read and Respond and Lyric Lab, new features that deepen Flocabulary's instructional sequence and help build core academic skills. Lyric Lab lays the foundation for Flocabx, a new writing initiative in partnership with school districts and their surrounding communities.
By 2017, Flocabulary has hired its 50th employee and launched a mobile app. The team is now focused on expanding the reach of the product, adding innovative features and functionality, and realizing Flocabulary's mission of making learning more engaging, accessible and relevant for students of all backgrounds.