A New York youth center is bringing inner city kids back to their communities through music.
The Renaissance Youth Center located in the South Bronx aims to empower students through team building education, music, and sports programs.
“This is Renaissance’s pride and joy right here -- music with a message,” Bervin Harris, Renaissance Youth Center CEO, told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts.
The center connects with about 4,000 kids a week, Harris said.
“It’s a place for us to bring young people who are disconnected or formerly known as at-risk youth to become law-abiding citizen[s] for our society,” he added.
The organization, which also has a band, encourages young people to write their own songs of hope, love, and inspiration. These songs are often debuted on the band’s summer tours.
Each summer, the group travels throughout New York City spreading their positive messages at parks, schools, beaches and theme parks. Social issues such as gun violence, bullying, fitness, and asthma are often at the center of the tour’s focus. Their song creations not only shed a light on these issues but offer information on how to overcome the many challenges surrounding them.
“I get to spend the summer spending time with my family and spreading good messages through our songs,” youth singer Beatrice Cardona said.
Cardona said these programs are hard to find in the city.
“We don’t get as many opportunities as others and there are not as many programs for us as teenagers so I feel like this is something special,” she said.
Harris said there are few programs like the Renaissance Youth Center because of a lack of funding for after-school and summer programs.
“What [we] are trying to do is find all these teenagers who don’t go to synagogues, who don’t go to churches and who are not involved in after-school programs," he said. "We want to have a call and get some of this positive energy and find things for them to do."
Music WIth A Message was founded in 2009 with the mission of making a change, one song at a time. The 25 person band features musicians ages 2 to 19, who were selected through an audition process.
Six youth members along with Harris stopped by Roberts' dressing room to share their story and serenade her with some classic hits. The group kicked off the reveal with Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” Their energetic and upbeat rendition put a smile on the face of each participant, truly displaying the positive and unifying effects of music.
The group’s endless energy continued with their moving performance of “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical “Rent."
The organization's band will be launching a five-borough tour to encourage youth to reconnect with their community.