Champion is the word that comes to mind for 19 year old Kaylee when she thinks of the Key of C Music Campaign.
“Music has helped me become a champion… It has helped me overcome so many obstacles. It is my confidence.”
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But it wasn’t always that way.
Three years ago, when Kaylee was 16, she felt nothing like a champion. Uncertain of herself, anxious to fit in with others, she made some bad decisions that landed her in Juvenile Court.
Fortunately, she lives in Salem, the location of Plummer Youth Promise’s On Point program. A collaboration of Plummer Youth Promise, the Salem Police Community Impact Unit and Essex County Juvenile probation, On Point provides therapeutic, educational and recreational programming to kids as an alternative to serving time in a juvenile detention facility.
“I remember the day Kaylee arrived at On point,” says Keith Willa, Plummer’ On Point Director. “Hoodie up, eyes down, wringing her hands and saying little.” As with all kids, I wondered how best to reach her. I had no idea music would be the key.”
Kaylee credits Plummer Youth Promise music instructor Callie Lipton with helping her tremendously. Of her teaching approach, Callie says “it’s very important to be aware and sensitive as I respond to the subject matter in the songs they write. Some of the students have been bullied and others suffer from depression and anxiety. As they learn to write and play music they are given the opportunity to process and heal from their struggles and gain tools to use in their own lives when they might otherwise feel hopeless.” (More about Callie’s work with youth in the community here.)
One of Kaylee’s proudest moments was two months ago on a stage in downtown Salem during October, Salem’s busiest tourist season. “I performed my own set – four songs back to back, not stopping. … And that was my first performance where I felt like, oh my God, like that went well. … My family was there too, and that was really cool.” (Check out Kaylee and Gyanna’s performance during Halloween in Salem here.)
Even though Kaylee completed her court-ordered time at On Point, she comes back every week to make music, talk with friends and encourage others. “I love it,” she says.
As for Kaylee’s continued presence at On Point, Keith says she is a joy to have around. Always smiling, always laughing. “Nothing like when she first arrived. Today we can’t keep her quiet. And who would want to? Her laughter and compassion are contagious – she lights up the room. And she’s a terrific role model for kids who are struggling.”
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Plummer Youth Promise works with kids — mostly teens — in foster care or the juvenile justice system. They have suffered from things like violence, neglect, hunger, bullying and worse. They often struggle with depression, anger, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. They have trouble trusting people.
We are raising money through our six-week Key of C Campaign to ensure that music remains an expressive outlet for kids like Kaylee. Each week, we will share the stories of at-risk and vulnerable teens who have used music to develop characteristics so vital to thriving in adulthood – things like courage, confidence, and coping skills.
Help us ensure that Plummer Youth Promise can continue to make music available to kids in the foster care and juvenile justice system as they try to overcome experiences most of us can’t imagine.