An African proverb states that it takes a village to raise a child. UCAN works hard to partner with other community organizations in order to surround youth with a caring village. Guitars Over Guns Organization (GOGO) is one of the partners that provide a positive impact in the lives of our young people. GOGO is a mentoring organization that provides music programs for at-risk youth. UCAN Academy, our therapeutic day school serving grades 1-12, incorporates GOGO into the school’s programming and it has come to be one of the favorite activities for youth and staff alike.
GOGO provides mentoring to at-risk youth through visual arts and music education as an alternative to the negative and harmful influences that typically dominate youth’s environments. The GOGO program is designed to provide positive, culturally relevant, hands on music, dance and visual arts education and mentoring for at-risk children. The GOGO volunteers who work with the students at UCAN Academy have a passion for the arts as well as instilling positivity into those they mentor.
When members of our Development team visited the school to observe the program, students in various classrooms were engaged in drum lessons, playing chords on the guitar and singing songs as if they were being recorded in a studio. The students in one group were busy making personalized skateboards by placing sketches traced from the computer onto the boards. We spoke with Steven, a GOGO volunteer, who works on the visual arts component of the program. He believes that the program is beneficial because it is important for the youth to take ownership of their creativity. “We are trying to get kids to tap into the visual arts and feel included in the process of something they are a part of,” he explained.
Steven commented on his desire to change the thought process of the students away from “I can’t” thinking. “I try to give them something to be proud of because some of them don’t hear it enough.” As an added benefit, the GOGO program introduces the variety of career opportunities available for the creative arts.
In addition to providing the students a constructive project to work on there are many therapeutic benefits to engaging children in the arts. Art can help children express their pain caused by trauma. It has also been linked to reducing stress and aiding in psychological healing. “There is something good going on inside these kids. Some of them see the visual arts as way to escape. They can draw their feelings through a sketch book,” stated Steven.
Partners like GOGO expose children and adolescents to new experiences, uncover their hidden strengths and encourage them to always give their best effort. To learn more about UCAN Academy please click here.