It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m running out of time. I have one more deadline to meet and three phone calls to return. There’s a quick face to face meeting I need to have with one of my staff and then I’m free to hang out with the youth and chat about life over grilled cheese sandwiches!
Today was different. Although I had my “Please Do Not Disturb” sign posted on my door, a few youth excitedly barged in and one of them was carrying a magazine. The work will just have to wait. I closed my notepad, minimized the document I was working on, and immediately got excited! I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, but just seeing them all excited got me going. I knew it had to be good.
The magazine was already opened to a page and all of the youth kept pointing at the article. One of the youth yelled, “R.J.’s in it! He’s famous!” Another youth said, “It’s about PlanIt Sound. This is awesome!” I excitedly glanced at the article titled, “A New Beat.” The article is featured in the current issue of WE Magazine and is written by Omar Mouallem, one of the featured United Way Artists who co-wrote and stars in the Change Starts Here music video.
As I began to read the article, I was distracted by the conversation happening around me. The youth were boasting as to how cool it was that they knew someone famous and that they didn’t think organizations like the United Way supported local music and artists. Their conversation then turned to how much they loved hip hop and when were we (PlanIt Sound), going to do another music project with the youth. They were referring to a previous PlanIt project titled, “Young Touchables,” where we worked with at risk youth to produce a hip hop album, while helping to keep them off the streets.
I began to get emotional. At that moment, I looked up at the youth and was reminded of “their stories” and how they entered Children and Youth Services. Most of the youth that I work with at the Chimo Youth Retreat Centre, sometime in their lives, have accessed the supports and services of the United Way. How cool it was to see all of them standing in front of me, all smiles and proud to be connected with a social service organization, like United Way, and with PlanIt Sound. This type of interruption was well worth it!
They were right. When is PlanIt Sound going to collaborate with at-risk youth on a musical project? I knew right then, that the time was now. At PlanIt Sound, engaging youth through music has always been the heart and soul of who we are and what we do. Being a part of the United Way’s fundraising campaign reinforces our vision at PlanIt Sound - to create opportunities and experiences for youth by teaching them life skills training through the power of music. When I think about all the community connections that tie into the United Way, and now PlanIt Sound is also a part of this connection, at the heart of all of this meaningful work is the youth of our community.
COO, PlanIt Sound Inc.
Program Manager, Chimo Youth Retreat Centre