NEW YORK - Rapper Melle Mel belted out some of his legendary beats in his home borough of the Bronx on Saturday. It was a day meant to celebrate so many milestones for kids across the city: the end of summer and the return to school. It's also a time to highlight the strength and resiliency that young students like Aaliyah Sheppard have shown this whole pandemic.
"I'm actually glad that I'm back because I can actually be with my peers and be able to have more of a social life than during the quarantine," said Sheppard, a high school freshman from the Bronx.
The nonprofit Bronx Youth Empowerment Program hosted the annual event, which is called Out of the Pool, Back to School, in the Williamsbridge section.
"2020 was lost for so many kids, we want to help kids find themselves back into the learning groove," said Andy King, volunteer executive director of Bronx youth empowerment program.
Famed music producer Amadeus also took the stage to inspire the youth.
"I speak, I educate because I look just like you," Amadeus said. "I'm from where are you from, I've been through what you've been through."
"When I was younger, when I was their age, I made a choice to do the right thing," Melle Mel said. "I didn't get caught up in everything that was going on in the streets."
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter also stopped by to greet the kids.
It was a memorable day for high school sophomore Victor Rodriguez, who is just glad to be back in the classroom.
"I'm happy because it's been a long time since we've been going to school, talking to our teachers, getting more help and new friends," Rodriguez said.
This event has been going on for 14 years, but this year is extra special since it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.