The TRUE Skool Team
CO- EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
Shalina S. Ali
TRUE Skool is made up of caring, dedicated adults; talented instructors, dedicated Board Directors and amazing volunteers. Read below to get to know the staff and why we are all part of the TRUE Skool Team.
Jene " DJ the Jenius " Tate , DJ Instructor
Starting as a participant in 2011, Jene has leveled up into our official DJ Class Instructor and so much more. Helping everyone get acclimated to TRUE Skool culture, Jene is also our after school program assistant. Jene is also an Emcee , Visual Artist & Fashion Designer.
James Tomasello, Visual Arts Instructor
Since 2014, James has led our Visual Arts classes that include our Canvas Projects as well as community and business murals. He's also a life-long artist , antique collector and teaches visual arts around the city of Milwaukee.
Sheldon " Pooh Breezy " Wilbur , BBoy / Dance Instructor
Music Production Instructor
Sheldon has been with TRUE Skool since 2012 is dedicated to enhancing the student experience in the studio. Currently enrolled in the music and engineering program at MATC, Sheldon is dedicated to learning and sharing his skills in production and recording. Sheldon or "Schells" is also a BBoy Breakdancer and event coordinator and also a visual artist.
Gideon Verdin-Williams , Video Production Instructor
Gideon has been a volunteer with TRUE Skool since it's inception and recently joined our team as the Video Production Instructor. Gideon is video editor at TMJ4 News, he is also a professional Photographer & Promoter.
Jaylan Higgins , Live Band Instructor
TRUE Skool Alumni Jaylan leads our Live Performance Band Class as well as his own band, Melodic Prodigies. Jaylan plays several instruments and also makes beats. Jaylan has a passion for live performance and teaching instrumentation, Jaylan is also a student at MATC.
Sam Swasey , BBoy / Dance Instructor
Originally from Orlando Florida, Sam is the energetic Bboy Breakdance Instructor. He enjoys battling state to state as well as practicing parkour.
A word from our NEW CO- EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
Stepping into ‘Executive Director’ shoes would be a huge and challenging proposition for anyone. We took on the role of Interim Directors when Sarah resigned as Executive Director in early February and are fortunate to have a strong continued presence in the community, an engaged staff, interns, students, family and community partners who supported us and the organization through this time of transition.
Over the last year we have had a lot of time to think about the direction we would like to take the movement. TRUE Skool, more than most local nonprofits, is a collaborative body, and our thinking has been informed by the insights of our staff, Board, allies in the community and of course, our founder, Sarah Dollhausen, whose commitment to this work can’t be understated.
We also bring our own unique perspectives and resumes, though too long to list here, to our new roles. Fidel is deeply inculcated in the philosophies of Hip Hop and Peace, having first helped in the inception of TRUE Skool with Summer of Peace City Wide Youth Rally in 2003. He has perfected this pro-active, pro-arts, cooperative approach and has become a nationally respected connector of values and principles. This is reflected in the way he has carried out the creative development and outreach activities of the agency since going from contracted teaching artist and volunteer to full-time Director in 2016.
Shalina’s perspective is informed by years of service in the nonprofit and public education fields as well as training received in restorative justice practices, reproductive justice, re-evaluation counseling and trauma informed care. She has worked for a national institution, for Milwaukee Public Schools, with service providers, support circles and policy advocacy groups. 5 years ago she went from being a volunteer and supporter of TRUE Skool to being their first full time employee. She was then able to take her love for the arts and humanity, merge it with her passion for mental health and wellness which resulted in the development of “The Art of Coping”. The curriculum has impacted all areas of programming and shifted the organizational culture and practices.
So what is the new vision resulting from these combined perspectives? How does this new vision inform the work of TRUE Skool going forward? We recognize that Hip Hop culture itself and the world is a different place from when TRUE Skool started on 2004. Back then, we were introducing a seemingly new ‘urban’ or creative approach to youth outreach and advocacy. We were “out there” and our approach was not recognized by the mainstream. in fact, we were on the cutting edge. These days, there are more and more young adult, youth programs and schools incorporating authentic Hip Hop culture elements or coming up with something that looks very similar. Now the skepticism about the impact of Hip Hop in education and social justice work has faded in the light of all the celebrated developments in popular academia, such as college programs ‘1st wave’ in UW-Madison or courses such as ‘Hip Hop Architecture’. Scientific discoveries about neurobiology, child development and trauma care that support our holistic and creative, even musical approach to education and leadership building is well accepted.
TRUE Skool is a small organization in comparison to some other nonprofits. We can never compete with the huge, national institutions nor do we want to become a big machine that measures success by numbers and not by lives impacted. Our competitive advantage is that our mind-state is to not compete. We are open to collaborate with other individuals and organizations out there doing good work in Milwaukee and across the map.
In our new roles as Co-Executive Directors, we believe we can take TRUE Skool beyond after-school programs and performance art services to become thought leaders and international change agents. We are small enough and efficient enough to quickly embrace emerging and innovative arts trends and to shape current public thinking in relation to community service and multimedia content creation. At the root of all this, is our conviction that we hold the keys to designing a world where our youth have the right to physical and emotional safety as well as the tools and networks they need to be successful.
Our strength doesn’t lie in us being trauma-informed, in knowing about workforce or socio-emotional skills; it doesn’t even lie in a commitment to make dope final products (although we are very good at that!). Our strength lies in all those things, plus a basic respect for the dignity of any human being, young or old, and the understanding that all behavior is a person’s best attempts to meet basic human needs. That’s the unique foundation of Hip Hop culture and that’s the paradigm shift we want to see take root in the systems, organizations and families that make up our society so that our children will inherit a world full of “Peace, Love, Unity & havin Fun”!