Transforming Power of Music and Art
1995, as an after-school mentoring program, Mentoring USA has
supplemented the classroom activities by developing partnerships
in the fields of music and the arts.
Through the years, Mentoring USA has continued to network with
various artists, musicians, and dancers. Last year, we staged
performances for the youth at various mentoring sites in conjunction
with Musician’s Local 802, National Academy of Recording
Arts & Sciences (NARAS,) Marie-Christine Giordano Dance Company,
and the children’s music group, Caddywampus, to name a few.
These partnerships enhance the lives of our mentees in many important
In addition to the wonderful exposure and enjoyment of the arts,
a completed artistic project can have a very therapeutic effect
for a youth who may have never created anything positive before.
Children who are not necessarily the best students enjoy finding
an outlet for their other talents, and then self-esteem blossoms.
Mentoring USA continues its legacy as a high school dropout prevention
program. Mentors can help children to work on the many skills
that they will need to succeed in school using a variety of arts-based
delivery methods. For example, writing projects need not take
on just essay formats–mentors and youth can work together
on screenwriting, TV sitcom writing, poetry, short stories and
Mentoring USA is reaching out to the arts community to take part
in our new BRAVE Juliana program, which uses basic mentoring concepts
combined with books about multi-cultural awareness and conflict
resolution activities to help strengthen children’s connections
to their own heritage and develop respect for other cultures.
This year, with funding from the Juliana Valentine McCourt Children’s
Education fund, we will be bringing two art and music–based
interactive workshops for mentors and mentees at each of our sixty
sites throughout the five boroughs. We are planning already the
following activities for the fall:
Creating books under the direction of a children’s art therapist;
assembling identity collages from magazines and personal photos;
photography workshops in and around mentees’ neighborhoods;
conflict resolution role-plays; children’s yoga, designed
to teach relaxing breathing and de-escalation techniques; African
drumming workshops; attending a concert; familiarizing the children
instruments and music rhythms.
BRAVE Juliana activities encourage youth to learn about New York
City’s diverse cultures and sub-cultures, with their unique
traditions and languages. The mentees who absorb this knowledge
of their own heritage and traditions and learning about their
communities are able to create songs, dances, or poetry. In fact,
some of these youth projects will be performed at our BRAVE Juliana
World’s Fair on October 19.
Mentoring USA has entered into a partnership with a new local
nonprofit, City at Peace, Inc., the only national performing arts
program for youth and social change. This program auditions youth
ages 13–19 every September to take part in an entirely youth-produced
dramatic production. Some of our mentors and mentees attended
the New York premier performances on June 28-30 at The Public
Theater, and we hope that this year some of our mentees will be
featured in the production! An ancillary benefit is that exposure
to the arts helps older youth to contemplate future careers which
they may never have considered.
In the past few years, the idea of involving at-risk youth in
the arts has been gaining momentum. In 1999, the U.S. Department
of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention (OJJDP) partnered with the National Endowment for the
Arts (NEA) to use art programs to steer at-risk youth away from
crime and delinquency. Many advocates who help at-risk youth believe
that the arts give youth a positive outlet for their ideas and
talents, so they can create instead of destroy. We consider music
and art-based programs as opportunities to offer our young people
an understanding of team spirit and a forum to work out their
problems without conflict.
The children that we reach through mentoring represent our future
leadership. Through the generous support of those in the arts
community who care, we introduce them to a larger world where
they can become productive, contributing members of our society,
rather than adding to the criminal or welfare statistics. By offering
them new, exciting alternatives as participants in our BRAVE Juliana
program, we make a real difference as we encourage our mentees
to use their creative energies for positive social change.#
Matilda Raffa Cuomo is Founder and Chairperson, Mentoring
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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