Tampa resident Aaron DeBerry is combining his affinity for academia and entrepreneurialism as he works to provide Web3’s first creative arts educational platform.
Web3 is the latest iteration of the World Wide Web, incorporating blockchain security, token-based economics and decentralization. DeBerry, president and CEO of Rhodes Academy Creative Arts Tampa (RCAT), recently announced he is working with Polygon Studios to build a platform for his private school on its blockchain protocol.
Polygon Studios is a leading supporter of the Web3, NFT, crypto gaming and metaverse building community. Creating Rhodes Academy’s platform through Polygon would allow Deberry to introduce innovative concepts and decentralization to the world of creative arts education. It would also provide students the chance to get paid for their work.
“There aren’t too many models where students can earn while they learn,” said DeBerry. “That’s certainly one of the biggest advantages we have.”
DeBerry said Rhodes Academy would offer six-week courses on visual art, photography and music production. At the end of each term, students will turn in a project.
Not only does the project become part of a student’s portfolio, said DeBerry, but they could also mint it onto the RACAT marketplace as an NFT for public consumption. Students would retain ownership of their work and earn money through the platform’s sales. He also plans to introduce a token program for the school.
The crypto tokens, said DeBerry, could incentivize high performance for students. For example, he explained that RACAT could award the top 3% of each class with its native tokens.
“So, there’s various ways for students to earn while they learn at Rhodes Academy,” he added.
DeBerry said that RACAT would initially serve students from grades 6 through 12, and he also plans to offer adult secondary education. He is currently working on developing the platform and expects a soft launch in late October or early November. He said the school would “definitely” be fully operational for the start of the new year in January 2023.
DeBerry believes that decentralized education would put the power back into the hands of students and teachers.
“I really think it’s time for educators and students to have more say, first of all, on how the curriculum is created,” said DeBerry. “The second reason is it kind of creates a new compensation model for the educators because, with Rhodes Academy, the content they create belongs 100% to them.”
Through the use of NFTs, DeBarry said teachers and students would also have the autonomy to take their work to other platforms outside of RACAT. He added that utilizing blockchain technology enables creative freedom.
While DeBerry noted some blockchain-based schools focus on cryptocurrency education, he said Rhodes Academy would be the first to combine creative arts studies with Web3 technology.
DeBerry hopes to continue building a relationship with Polygon, who he said only works with the world’s most cutting-edge Web3 companies. He said the platform receives thousands of daily applications to build on its blockchain but only picks the “most innovative, technology-driven projects.”
Originally founded as a nonprofit private school in 2015, Rhodes Academy has “morphed and transformed multiple times,” DeBerry said, as he sought to find the perfect model for the school. After forays into creating an after-school program, charter school and private school, DeBerry said he lost his building in January.
“After we lost our building, I was introduced to the Web3 space, and boy, was that the right move that came at the right time,” he said. “I’ve been working on the Web3 space since January, and man – it’s paid off.”
DeBerry said he would like to secure a physical space in the “very near future” where students can participate in live labs and collaborate with local artists and musicians. He said he has recently held discussions with a Tampa co-working development that focuses on the blockchain and NFT industries.
Growing up, DeBerry said, he was a middling student that often found class boring. After college and a stint playing professional football in Canada, he became an educator, where he realized the current “one-size-fits-all” approach to education is antithetical to various learning styles.
“So, I created Rhodes Academy for students like myself,” said DeBerry. “I knew I wanted to use the arts but I knew I wanted to do things a little different. I want to use the entrepreneurial side of arts to kind of drive interest in my students.”
RCAT is currently undergoing a rebranding; for more information, visit the website here.