HARMONIKIDS SESSION TO TROUBLED YOUTH AT FERRIS YOUTH DETENTION CENTER
25 June, 2021
On May 28, 2021 I provided a Hohner-sponsored Harmonikids session for students at the Cleveland White School at Ferris Youth Detention Center in Wilmington Delaware; a full-security juvenile facility for youth whose mission is to “provide educational and therapeutic services to adjudicated youth in a safe, staff-secure and gender sensitive environment preparing them for successful re-entry into the community.” Over the years Harmonikids' ongoing programs to assist the youth at Ferris have become among my personal favorites having grown up in the area myself, and because the participants (many of whom have been neglected, abandoned, and/or abused) receive much-needed self esteem and confidence from the experience. Harmonikids provides a healthy and positive form of creative expression and emotional release for detained youth in a crucial time in their lives. The harmonica becomes a powerful but gentle tool to help kids get back on track. Simply stated, the lessons often become an inspiration for these adolescents to grow, change, forgive the world – and themselves.
The session that day was a successful and joyful learning experience for all. The students were entertained and taught fascinating history while learning to play several blues songs on the harmonicas. But the session had a powerful positive impact on two boys in particular. When I entered the classroom their anxiety and apprehension was immediately palpable and they outright refused to participate. Sadly one of them had just lost his brother to gang violence two weeks before my visit. But as the session progressed both jumped in eagerly and became fully engaged. It was a joy to watch their their whole whole energy and demeanor change as they joined the other youth having fun while learning to play music. Teacher Rich Dale shares his insights on this in his thoughtful note of thanks below.
~ Gary Allegretto, Founding Director of Harmonikids, www.harmonikids.org
Thank you so much for visiting our school last week and sharing your skills and knowledge with our students. They enjoyed your presentation, the music you created with your harmonica, and the history lesson that you provided.
As you are probably aware, most of our students have already experienced more than their share of hardships in their young lives. One student had just lost his brother two weeks before your visit. This student was not planning on participating in your presentation and even expressed that at the beginning of your visit. But soon after you started, he became engaged and enjoyed every minute of it. I saw the fist bump that the two of you shared at the end of your visit. It is important for him to keep engaged in school activities at this time as he copes with his loss, and you helped him do just that.
Another student also said he would not participate, and early in your presentation he changed his mind completely. He was happy to hear your music and was interested in the knowledge you shared regarding the history of blues music. He later told me that when you started playing your harmonica, "I was like, ‘What the freak.’ That was an eye opener."
The kids were really excited about receiving their own harmonicas! Many thanks to Hohner for donating those to them! This is something that each student can keep and take home with them when their stay with us ends. And who knows, maybe, thanks to your time and efforts, the harmonica will play an important role in the life of another youngster from Delaware.
Again, we appreciate you visiting us, sharing your time with us, playing inspiring music for us, and giving our kids a gift of music.
~ Rich Dale, ELA Teacher, Cleveland White School, Ferris Youth Detention Center