By ANALISA TROFIMUK
Miah Scott says participating in the Guitars Over Guns program during her final semester at Beethoven Elementary School helped her find the strength to get through some tough times and help her peers in Chicago do the same.
“I know Guitars Over Guns pulled that out of me. It helped me find that little itty bit of strength I needed to get through hard times,” the 14-year-old said.
Guitars Over Guns is a nonprofit, arts-based mentoring program with locations in Miami and Chicago, where it currently operates at four schools.
Students work with mentors during school hours and after school to bring their creativity to life based on their various talents. The program encourages students to “choose your sound” and express yourself through music or any art form. Scott, for example, shared her original poetry with other students.
“If you go into the program and don’t think you can do something, you learn from the teachers and other kids that you can do anything,” she said.
The Guitars Over Guns Organization (GOGO) started as an informal volunteer music mentoring project for youth from underserved neighborhoods in Miami, according to its website. The popularity led to it being formalized and offered in local schools in collaboration with Communities In Schools Miami.
The first official program started at North Miami Middle School in 2008. Over the last nine years, it has expanded to seven schools and several community centers in Miami and Chicago, with the curriculum expanded to includes dance, visual arts and annual summer camps.
In Chicago, there are programs at Evergreen Academy in McKinley Park, Beethoven Elementary in Fuller Park, UCAN Academy in Humboldt Park, and Haven Studio at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Oakland, according to Andrew DeMuro.