Northwestern volunteers make a difference through hip-hop music with AMPED

The Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers (AMPED) music mentorship program is preparing for its 11th year of programming. AMPED is a partnership between Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement, Bienen School of Music, and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). 

The program has been under the leadership of Patrick Horton (Bienen ’22) as the Program Administrator and Curriculum Designer and David DeAngelis (Bienen ’24) as the Graduate Advisor since 2021. Before serving as program staff, both Patrick and David participated as AMPED volunteer mentors. They recently shared their plans about the upcoming year of AMPED programming with CCE staff.

 A unique volunteer experience for Northwestern students 

One of the unique facets of AMPED as a volunteer opportunity is the strong connection it provides to a community outside of Northwestern. “What makes AMPED unique on a national scale is that we can take [Northwestern] students into the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center – there’s not many college students who get to go inside a detention center and work with folks directly,” Patrick notes. David adds, “Bringing Northwestern students to the JTDC helps create a sense of the program being very process oriented. Our model is peer-to-peer versus teacher-student.”

AMPED volunteers travel to the JTDC weekly on Saturdays throughout the winter and spring, where they engage in sessions focused on the history and impact of hip-hop music. As the program progresses, volunteers and residents begin to create music together.

Hip-hop music as a tool for community building 

The community building that happens during the program is intentional, and building trust is key. Patrick notes, “We have to prove that we are there to care about the residents, including their perspectives and experiences. These two groups of folks [volunteers and residents] would most likely not see or experience each other, and so we need to form a relationship to work together and talk with one another.” “Overall, AMPED is about relationships, engaging with the music, and being creative. It’s less about what the finished product looks or sounds like,” adds David. 

Before beginning the mentoring sessions, Northwestern volunteers participate in multiple training sessions on topics like hip-hop education, juvenile justice, and trauma-informed interventions. The training sessions help the volunteers build a base of knowledge and engage in conversations about important topics for several weeks before beginning sessions at the JTDC.

Building a creative space to share perspectives 

Overall, the ethos of the program is one of community, creativity, and shared learning. David notes, “It’s a humbling experience to enter the [JTDC] space each week. It stays with you. You need to have a sense of humility at all times. We are conducting ourselves as invited guests each week.”

In thinking about who would be a good fit as an AMPED mentor, an interest in hip-hop music, or at least a broad respect for hip-hop music, is helpful. “We operate in the space that everyone is musical, everyone is creative. We’re all bringing our own musical and cultural perspectives and experiences. We value you if you have the motivation to be here,” notes Patrick.

Northwestern students interested in applying to be an AMPED mentor in 2023-24 can learn more about the program and apply before the October 15 deadline.