On the exterior, Wilson Park Apartments may not look any different than the dozens of other project housing units owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority but as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.
During after-school hours, from three to six, sounds of sung harmonies and rhythmic raps being composed can be heard coming from the youth center. The Philadelphia Youth Music Partnership (PYMP.) is a free program for the local kids seen as a safe haven from the surrounding violent neighborhood, for even just a few hours.
Dominic McFadden, the program director of PYMP, mentioned how rewarding the program could be for some of its students.
“This one kid, he was on probation, always in trouble,'” McFadden said. “He came to the program. I said to him, ‘If you stay out of trouble, I’ll get you to meet your favorite star.’ One day the mayor’s office called and asked how he was doing. They said, ‘all right don’t tell him but we are going to have him meet Jay Z.'”
Through PYMP, many students have found
resources they would never had access to had they not been a part of the program. Nearly one in four Philadelphians lives below the poverty line, meaning these families do not have the funds to put their children in after-school programs to keep them away from the violence on the streets.
In an effort to inspire the local children to stay true to themselves and avoid conflict in any manner, PYMP held an anti-bullying campaign with two child prodigies, one of which was Summer Valentine.
Valentine’s charisma radiated throughout the gymnasium in the youth center from the moment she picked up the microphone to speak with the children, even though she is hardly an adult figure at 12 years old.
“I did a performance here [at PYMP] first, and they were doing HIV testing and 800 kids got tested that day,” Valentine said while fiddling with the bulky gold chain around her neck. “So I just wanted to get to know it [PYMP] more, and get involved with it.”
Since its creation, PYMP has affected countless student with the music classes, internship opportunities and events such as the HIV testing. But in order to keep the program continuing the way it is, the program must stay free, which in turn means all of the people working for PYMP must strictly remain volunteers.
“A future? Well, I don’t know,” said Ron Meersand, a volunteer sound engineer and co-founder of PYMP. “Unless people step up and volunteer the way I do, there is no future.”
To learn more about Philadelphia Youth Music Partnership or volunteering with them, check out their website here.