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AMPED (Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers) completed its final session last week. This year, instead of traveling to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), mentors worked with residents virtually once a week.

AMPED is a collaboration between the Center for Civic Engagement and The Bienen School of Music. This year’s mentors spent 13 weeks working with JTDC residents between Winter and Spring Quarters. This year, the program’s main focus was to create community between mentors and residents by exploring music. Though the format was non-traditional, mentors and residents learned how to critically discuss music, and had the opportunity to write lyrics and freestyle.

“One of the best things about the program was seeing the growth from both the residents and the mentors. Everyone was able to learn new things and get out of their shells a little bit,” said Akie Kadota, a mentor in her second year of the program. “By the end, we had residents free styling for a good portion of songs and mentors feeling more open to sharing their lyrics.”

At the beginning of the year, the AMPED team was not sure whether the program would even be happening. Between the COVID pandemic affecting all Northwestern activities and the restrictions put in place at the detention center, mentors were not able to travel to the JTDC to work with residents in person, as in a normal year. Nonetheless, through the persistence of the AMPED team and the JTDC, the program was able to continue in a new format.

“I think it is great that we are able to have a successful curriculum virtually now,” said Selin Ozcelik, a first-year graduate student mentor. “We worked incredibly hard this year to reformat the program and continually reevaluate what was working and what needed to change.”

Through the virtual format, mentors and residents were able to connect over their shared love of music. Mentors brought in a variety of music, primarily hip-hop and rap, to share with residents; some of the residents’ favorite artists included G Herbo, Lil Durk, Lil Baby, and Frank Ocean. After an initial listen, the group discussed each song, including the beat, the lyrics, how the artist wrote the song, and what they would change about it. Through these discussions, mentors and residents learned more about music and what the songs meant to each individual.

Mentors and residents were also able to write and share lyrics with each other. Each person brought their own rhyme, vision, and flair to the table. Their writing often covered personal topics, cultivating community with the group and furthering the power that the music held for each person.

“My favorite part of the whole program is getting to see the expression of emotions from all sides,” said Lauren Reynolds, a mentor in her third year of the program. “We are able to laugh and joke with each other while exploring some deeper topics through music.”

Though it is yet to be determined whether the program will be in-person or virtual next year, AMPED is definitely here to stay. Information and applications for next year’s mentor team will be available on the AMPED website in Fall 2021.