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Reversing Negative Messages

North Central University student uses hip-hop platform to speak God’s truth.
At age 16, Celena Eamiguel told her father she wanted to “rap for God.” Coming from a family of Christian artists, the teenager quickly found her niche in the hip-hop genre and began writing music.

As Eamiguel prepared to graduate from high school, she decided to continue pursuing rap, but recognized she needed to develop business skills to sustain her ambition for a long-term music career. Through a scholarship provided by the Acts 6 Program, a multiethnic scholarship and urban leadership initiative, Eamiguel landed at North Central University, the Assemblies of God higher education institute in Minneapolis.

Nearly four years later, Eamiguel says the university has played a considerable role in her hip-hop journey. The 22-year-old student is on track to graduate in December with a business administration degree from the university’s College of Business and Technology. She says many of the valuable insights gained during her time at the school have come from hands-on courses — especially the ones focused on branding and consumer demographics. Eamiguel says she is working to apply these lessons and find ways to get her music to her target audience: urban youth.

“God has given me a platform to reverse the lies told through a lot of rap and hip-hop music, lies that are destroying my generation from the inside out,” says Eamiguel. “I want to be prolific in speaking God’s truth and reversing the negative messages that hip-hop has used to influence people, especially in the urban community.”

Mark Skeba teaches business and marketing at North Central and has instructed and advised Eamiguel. He says he has been impressed with her commitment to learning and the way she commands a stage — both through music and academic presentation. Skeba sees the student’s music platform as a powerful tool that provides opportunities for her to articulate difficult concepts and share her faith in a unique way.

The business professor says North Central’s College of Business and Technology is highly intentional about cultivating coursework directly applicable to the business world.

“Our mission is not to send out kids who just know textbooks, but leaders who are excellent and strong in virtue and character,” says Skeba, 38. “Our goal is to invest in our students beyond the classroom; we want to prepare them for the real world as followers of Jesus.”

Eamiguel says this educational outlook has been a game changer throughout her college journey as professors have joined her journey to enhance her music business and have adapted schedules when life events precluded her from completing assignments on time. She is eager to complete her business program in December and is continuing to develop her music platform for what she hopes is a long career in hip-hop.

For now, she is working with her family-owned record label, 1 Way Entertainment, to produce her third album and is anticipating more live performances in the coming months. Her music, including her newest release “Turn Me Around” is streamed on all music platforms under her artist name, Celena Lena. Through it all, though, Eamiguel says her end goal is simple.

“I want to encourage and inspire people to know and love God for themselves,” she says. “I want them to see Him through my sound and my life.”

Kristin Wileman Sheldon

Kristin Wileman Sheldon is a writer who specializes in faith and rural development topics. A graduate of North Central University, she has written extensively for high-profile government and business leaders, and has created content for The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Worldview magazine. Wileman lives in central South Dakota.