When do you know your work is making a difference?
At the beginning of this school year, teachers at one of the schools we work in said, “Don’t let [student] into your program. He just causes trouble” and other similar comments. We let the student join our after school program. This same student continues to show up each program day after school, excited to play bass guitar, and is playing with his band at his first showcase in December. We even gave him a bass guitar to keep at home. He hasn’t received detention in the past couple of weeks at school. This past Veteran’s Day, when schools were closed, we had our annual college and trade school visitation trip. This student showed up at 8am on a day that he wasn’t required to go to school or do anything school related to visit the 5 local colleges with the other Rock to the Future students. He’s also started bringing his friends to the program. When children and teens are given the opportunity to learn and grow through music, we see incredible things happen.
What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?
I received a DM recently from a student that graduated a few years ago. “I want you to know that I look back and really appreciate what you taught me. I’ll be back home in November and I’d love to talk to the kids about what I’ve learned from RTTF. And also the fact that I wish I was more thankful to you guys when I had the chance. Miss you guys –thank you so much. Sending hella love.” Working with teens is challenging (I know I was a terrible teen and sometimes think this is karma!), and we don’t do this work for gratitude. It’s still a nice reminder that the young people we work with appreciate their time at Rock to the Future many years after they’ve graduated.
What is the most important thing you do to help your teaching artists do their best work?
As we’ve grown from a volunteer based organization, we’ve invested our resources back into our team. To get the best from our staff, we work hard to show we value them. We no longer have our program staff classified at contractors –they are now employees of the organization. Rock to the Future provides professional development opportunities for all of our staff members. This year we provided over 10 hours of training on trauma informed approaches, cultural competencies, differentiated learning, and restorative practices. All staff members –including part-time –receive accrued paid time off, pay for snow closures, and paid trainings. In our recent strategic planning process, all staff were invited to participate and were paid for their time.
If you could magically change one thing to make your program better, what would it be?
Facilities are always one of our greatest challenges. Because we specifically host our programs in neighborhood schools, we have to frequently “make it work” with what is available. ::::**MAGIC**:::: We have heat and air conditioning, spacious lesson rooms that we can also store our equipment in, functioning WiFi, electrical outlets, windows, auditorium lights, sound systems, and clean and unlocked bathrooms.
Best. Snack. Ever.
Homemade jalapeno poppers.