Derek Collins, an accomplished Black educator and therapist based in Atlanta, GA, founded Gifted & Lit with a clear mission in mind. He recognized that Hip-Hop music had a powerful influence on the youth, particularly among Black males. During his daily commute to work, he observed young men walking down the street, rapping to themselves. This observation sparked an idea in Mr. Collins' mind: "If used properly, Hip-Hop can have a positive effect on the subconscious mind of our youth."
Unfortunately, many songs have negative influences on people's conscious and subconscious levels. Mr. Collins knew that following the wrong role models could lead to poor decision-making and negative outcomes. To address this issue, he decided to create a program similar to Schoolhouse Rock, a popular education program from the ’70s and ’80s that used music to teach children social studies, grammar, and other subjects. Mr. Collins had personal experience with this program since he learned the United States preamble in the 8th grade by listening to Schoolhouse Rock.
While working as a substitute teacher in 2008, Mr. Collins brought an old Schoolhouse Rock DVD to a kindergarten class to see if it would resonate with the young students. The children loved it, even though the audio and visuals were over 30 years old. This experience convinced Mr. Collins that he should create a program to help children learn and grow. After nine years of saving money, he finally launched Gifted & Lit.