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Samohi Students Show How West Was Won

By Jorge Casuso

December 2 -- Santa Monica High School has passed a tough organizing test with flying colors, bringing hip hop star Kanye’ West to the campus Monday after delivering more than one million votes in a radio contest.

Big Boy in the Mornings (KPWR, 105.9 Los Angeles) announced Thursday that the Grammy Award winning rapper will perform live at the high school’s outdoor Greek Theater after the lunch break.

Sponsored by Power 106 and the Knowledge is Power Foundation, the contest drew more than five million online votes during a two-week period. Of the more than 60 Los Angeles area schools that participated, Samohi won hands down, delivering by far the most votes, station officials said.

“They cast well over a million votes,” said Dianna Jason, a spokesperson for the station. “It was huge. It was big. It shows how well-organized and involved they were.”

“Santa Monica High School has proven that a school can pull its students, faculty and families together to accomplish anything for their school if they truly want to achieve a goal,” Big Boy said in a prepared statement. “They are deserving of this victory!"

District officials are preparing for the appearance of one of hip hops biggest stars by sending notices to parents and heightening security around campus Monday, said Superintendent Dr. John Deasy.

“This is in the middle of the school day,” Deasy said. “Security will be strictly enforced and handled through the district and police departments. Before the concert, the campus will be closed.”

“Everyone is hypersensitive, especially adults, when it comes to hip hop,” said School Board member Oscar de la Torre. “We’ll take extra precautions, heightened security. We’re all going to be working together to make sure it goes well.”

Only Samohi students and staff will attend the concert at the outdoor theater, which holds some 4,500 people and is used for the school’s graduation ceremonies, Deasy said.

“We want our kids to enjoy this and only our kids,” Deasy said. “We have had all kinds of requests and have denied them all.”

De la Torre hopes West -- who is known for creating socially conscious hip hop with a philosophical flair -- can bring more than musical harmony to a campus that was torn with racial tensions earlier this year. (see related story)

“It’s a really big deal,” said de la Torre, who is executive director of the Pico Youth and Family Center. De la Torre said the event could bring “unity and celebrate diversity on our campus.

“Santa Monica High School students deserve an event that will bring more unity,” de la Torre said. “That’s something we want to see happen with this event… The power of hip hop music and culture has a great potential to do good.”

West, de la Torre said, “ embodies the principle of free speech.”

West gained national attention earlier this year when he slammed President Bush during NBC's live broadcast of the Concert for Hurricane Relief, declaring that the president "doesn't care about black people." (see related story)

The radio contest – dubbed "Big Boy's Backstage with Kanye' West" – was an effort by the popular morning deejay to encourage students to organize.

“Big Boy is from Los Angeles,” Jason said. “He grew up here and went to high school here.

“He wants to illustrate how a school, if they’re passionate about something, can mobilize their community.”

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