by Amanda Fontaine, Student and Family Resource Specialist, Carter MacRae Elementary School
Music is a powerful tool, and SWAN harnesses it to empower students. As I have witnessed their program over the years at MacRae Elementary, I have observed that SWAN not only teaches students the skills of creating music through playing various instruments and singing, but it also creates a safespace for students to work through traumatic experiences, connect with other students, build an incredible bond with mentors, and have long-lasting friendships. Students learn new ways of communicating and how to persevere through difficult circumstances. Each week the students get so excited to engage in their lessons, yes for the music, but it’s more than that. It is a healing experience! Students who have been in the program are quick to mentor and engage with new students and encourage them to join.
One student comes to mind that I watched transform from being very reserved and disheartened by her life experiences to becoming one who encourages others. She has not only flourished in music but has become an amazing leader. She encourages others to find their passions, passes on the coping skills she has learned, and expresses a desire to support others when she grows up.
Students mature and gain skills by performing. We have seen students who are normally quiet get up and sing in front of a group. Another student who struggles with a speech impediment can get up and rap with no hesitation. Students who struggle to pay attention or focus, sit down and play an instrument with extreme focus and discipline. What a priceless experience it is to see our students’ faces after they have shared their music! Their success gives them a sense of accomplishment and confidence and encourages their loved ones and teachers.