In 2009, the Georgia Department of Justice admitted 2,930 juveniles to its youth development centers – a nice word for jails, said Rameau.
It cost $33,807 to house each child in these youth development centers. Compared to the $33,807, the Atlanta Music Project costs only $2,500 per child a year and they are guaranteed to graduate high school.
“It really is about prevention, that’s the investment,” Rameau said. “We need to be more aware and serious about the cost to sending kids to jail – add all of that up and it’s nearly $99 million. That is a lot of money when $2,500 a year can teach a kid how to play the clarinet.”
Going into their third year, there are no auditions; no prior musical experience requirement to participate in the Atlanta Music Project. And the programs are offered to the kids for free.
“We rehearse two hours every day after school,” he said. “We accept them and make it work.”
POP has an annual budget of about $500,000. Compared to the amount of money spent on the juvenile justice system in Philadelphia, he argues it is cheaper to run POP.
It costs $2 million a year each year to lock up a kid in Philadelphia. There are 200,000 kids in Philly with 70,000 living below the poverty line and 100,000 in trouble.
And another program in Atlanta has now made inner-city youth their target as well. The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is working to raise $10,000 to provide scholarships to for at-risk youths to participate in their 8 week summer program. The first fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, June 9.
Brenda Galina, executive director of MODA, said a lot of the inner-city kids, who are also home-schooled, are not able to pay the $500 a week for camp.
“So we want to do all we can to provide as many scholarships as possible to make an opportunity for them,” she said. There are three young boys, in particular, that Galina would like to see participate this summer. She believes participating in this program may not only change their lives, it will serve us well, adding that they could very well be our future engineers
“Young people are not getting the push needed in the United States today when it comes to areas of interest like robotics and engineering. Camp MODA is designed to foster those interests,” she said, adding most of the kids who sign up for the 8 week program already have an interest, but they want to enhance the interest already there.
But are these organizations having an impact on the issues of crime and violence in these cities? That is yet to be seen. However, Thompson and Rameau report they are seeing a change in their students. And because of that, both programs are planning to expand into other schools or communities next year.
Organizations like CeaseFire Chicago, as well as the Chicago Public Schools, are working to combat these issues. Calls and emails to their offices were not returned by deadline. However, a spokeswoman for CPS shared a report that shows they are making efforts to “implement strategies that will address issues on the front end —before they lead to more serious misconduct.”
POP’s success is already apparent.
“It has been tremendous,” Thompson said. “The grades are going up and are better than the grades of those students in other academic and sports programs in Philadelphia. POP is everything but just a music program.”
He said kids need to learn the skill of getting good at something, adding that there are programs like theirs all over the all over the country.
Rameau adds, “Eventually we want to be able to say we have a recipe here that seems to be working. There is just something about being in a music ensemble, it is really key. There is something about the team work and putting a bunch of kids together and doing something well together.”
Reports by TheGrio and the Atlanta Journal Constitution contributed to this report.
Follow Mashaun D. Simon on Twitter at @memadosi