March 26, 2014

Every now and then you get the chance to witness something monumental and in that moment it gives you chills to realize that you had the privilege of experiencing it first hand. On Friday, March 21, Executive Director Diana Vuolo, her husband, Chuck, and I experienced such a moment. We were honored to be among the 2,450 guests who gathered at the Lancaster Convention Center for Dayspring Christian Academy’s “Remember America” series with Dr. Ben Carson as the guest speaker. For us there was another attraction as well. 2014-03-21148_zps2c0bbd48One of our SWAN students, Bryanna Still, was being featured as a soloist with Dayspring Christian Academy’s Choir singing “America, The Beautiful”.

I need to back up for a moment and tell you a little more about Bryanna and how she arrived on a stage in front of 2,450 guests. Diana met Bryanna on a warm September day in 2012 at The Mix at Arbor Place, an after school program in a rough neighborhood in Lancaster city. Bryanna couldn’t keep from singing to the the other children around her, and Diana recognized the talent of this diamond in the rough. Bryanna’s family life has been one of heartache and hardship. Due to her parents’ history of incarceration and Bryanna’s love of singing she signed up to participate in our program. She blossomed and learned quickly and was given several opportunities to perform during the 2012-13 school year. You may recall that in August 2013 she had the privilege of singing the national anthem to open a Barnstormers’ baseball game at Clipper Stadium. Early in 2012 Diana had been approached by an anonymous donor who wanted to give one of our SWAN students a scholarship to Dayspring Christian Academy. Diana knew immediately that Bryanna would greatly benefit from this scholarship and so it was awarded to her. Now, a year and a half later, having been coached by our staff member Heidi Shannon, Bryanna confidently took the stage before her largest audience.

As Diana and I reflect on the magnitude of the change in Bryanna’s life since she was introduced to SWAN, it is dramatic. The gift of music is powerful and it is opening doors of opportunity for Bryanna that she could have only dreamed of two years ago. Much like Dr. Carson’s life story of diligently working hard to overcome adverse circumstances and following the opportunities provided by natural talent, Bryanna is scaling her walls a note at a time.

When Bryanna beautifully reached the crescendo of the song that night it was clear to those who knew her story of hardship that this diamond in the rough has a bright future. SWAN is privileged to have the opportunity to serve her in this way. Thank you all for your contributions that make such stories possible.

Please check back with us again soon for video footage of the performance!