Pitbull goes back to school to celebrate with college-bound seniors

Pitbull congratulates students during a College Signing Day in SLAM Academy Miami

Cuban rapper Pitbull arrived to SLAM Academy Miami in Little Havana to congratulate students participating in the school’s College Signing Day on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Cuban rapper Pitbull arrived to SLAM Academy Miami in Little Havana to congratulate students participating in the school’s College Signing Day on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Like five-star athletes, SLAM Academy Miami’s graduating seniors marched up on stage and sat down at a long table. They signed and held up letters declaring which college they intend to go to, all to the tropical beat of Pitbull’s 2014 hit, “Fireball.”

The “dale” on the back of their #collegesigningday shirts may have tipped off some students, but Mr. 305 himself made a brief surprise appearance Thursday for the school’s first academic college signing day.

“If you really represent 305, Dade County and Miami the same way I do,” Pitbull, otherwise known as Christian Armando Perez, told the class of 2019, “then I need y’all to go out there in the world and let them know what we’re made of and the way that we’re built and they way that we fight.”

A celebrity appearance may be a treat for most schools, but it’s the norm at SLAM, a sports-centered charter school in Little Havana heavily promoted by Pitbull. There are 10 SLAM schools nationwide, but Pitbull stops in at the Little Havana campus at least every few months, according to Principal Rey Breto.

“He’s a true leader to them, making them stay in school,” Breto said.

All but two of the school’s 133 seniors, the school’s largest senior class, are on track to graduate. A few students are graduating but did not participate in the ceremony because they cannot attend college due to their undocumented citizenship status. Most students are bound for two-year and four-year colleges with a handful choosing to enlist in the armed forces.

Isabella Lopez, 17, enrolled at SLAM in the school’s inaugural year as a seventh-grader.

“It’s really exciting when he comes because we know that we’re making him proud, and we’re doing everything possible so that he’s represented good because of what he’s doing for the community and education,” said Lopez, who is the school’s first graduate to go to the University of Florida.

She said Pitbull has thrown a surprise concert with Austin Mahon, visited with celebrities Hugh Jackman and Kevin Hart, and made appearances at honor roll celebrations.

“i was joking around with my friends saying hopefully he comes, but I didn’t expect it,” said Pablo Camacho, 18, who came to the school last year from Puerto Rico. “Just to see that he actually cares for us, and he came and talked to us before heading to wherever he needed to go, it’s important to me at least to see he actually cares and supports us no matter what.”

At the end of the ceremony, Breto echoed the words of Pitbull.

“Come back, give back,” he told the students. “This is your home.”

Colleen Wright returned to the Miami Herald in May 2018 to cover all things education, including Miami-Dade and Broward schools, colleges and universities. The Herald was her first internship before she left her hometown of South Miami to earn a journalism degree from the University of Florida.