Ava Trail, 9, didn't expect her fourth-grade class at Myrtle Place Elementary to see her original rap that received national recognition.
"No," she said with a shy grin Thursday when she realized her teacher was playing her videoed contest entry. She hid behind a water bottle at her desk as her peers nodded in unison to the beat and flashed smiles in her direction.
“In 1960, she went to Rome," Ava sang on the screen. "Won three gold medals, to bring back home. Broke all kinds of records, and that’s a plus. No more segregation, and that’s a must.”
Ava's song is about Wilma Rudolph, a black sprinter who overcame polio to become the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.
Out of more than 1,000 entries, Ava's was one of eight finalists in Flocabulary's Black History Rap Contest.
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"I was happy, real excited," Ava said of her accomplishment.
Students in third through 12th grades submitted original songs for the contest, each centering around an African-American who's had a significant impact on history.
The winner, a ninth-grader from Illinois, received a trip to New York City to meet the team behind Flocabulary, a learning platform that brings curriculum to life through rap music and other innovative means.
Toynette LeDay regularly uses Flocabulary to teach concepts such as point of view and personification to her fourth-grade English class. The students have their favorites, which they sing and dance to at their desks.
"It's like the new School House Rock," LeDay said. "It takes things and puts them into songs that help them remember what they learn."
LeDay learned about Flocabulary's contest in Feburary during a lesson about Black History Month.
Although she encouraged her students to enter, it wasn't a class assignment.
"I'm not surprised Ava entered," LeDay said. "She always talks about her dad. She says, 'My dad can rap.' She was gung-ho about the idea and submitted it on her own."
Justin "J-Star" Trail said he didn't help his daughter with the first round of the contest, which involved sending in written lyrics. Upon learning Ava was a finalist in the competition, he helped her pick a beat and record the entry.
"It was all her," Trail said. "I just helped her get comfortable with the flow of things so it didn't sound like it was coming off of a paper."
Trail, who is featured on local musician Keith Frank's most recent albums, said it was special to work with his daughter on something he's also passionate about.
"When she came to me and said that this was something she wanted to do, I was so excited about it," Trail said. "It's so cool to see her doing something like this around the age I was when I started to take this seriously. I think with her becoming a finalist, it put the battery in her back, made her want to try even more."
Trail and LeDay describe Ava as a curious, creative child who isn't afraid of expressing herself.
"She is smart," LeDay said. "She is so smart, very inquisitive, always full of questions. If she doesn't know something, she's going to ask."
Two of Ava's friends in the class also wrote their own raps but didn't finish in time to submit them for the contest.
Kailey Kennedy, 10, wrote a song about boxer Muhammad Ali, and Evangeline Gravouia, 10, wrote a song about jazz musician Louis Armstrong.
"It was cool because me and Evangeline helped Ava in a way," Kailey said. "We said, 'You could do this. You could enter this.'"
Evangeline chimed in: "I was like, 'You can do this. You can probably get to the finals if you work really hard. I'm proud of her."
Ava, Kailey and Evangeline said they wanted to enter the contest mainly for a chance to win the grand prize.
"I decided to do the contest because I wanted to go to New York," Ava said. "I wanted to meet the people who do Flocabulary because Flocabulary is awesome. It's like hip-hop for kids, and it teaches you about useful stuff."
Although she was initially embarrassed upon seeing herself rapping on the screen in the classroom, Ava was beaming during an encore viewing of the video. She said she's proud of herself and her song and was only initially embarrassed by the video because of what she was wearing and how her hair looked.
"I like that everybody in this class helped me," Ava said. "They helped me by, like, encouraging me."