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Creating the Stepping Stones for At-Risk Youth

By Alyse Mier
Photography by World Red Eye

July 9th marked a day of pure joy for the staff and students at the Irie Foundation Allapattah Music and Literacy Center (IFAMLC). Media, volunteers, staff, Jeff Ransdell from Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Miami’s very own DJ Irie were in attendance to celebrate the van that had been gifted to the center by Merrill Lynch. The students of the center had been working tirelessly for days to put together a performance that would impress the crowd. The performances consisted of exceptionally talented rappers, dancers, solo singers and spoken word poets who made the crowd’s jaws drop. The performers exhibited qualities of artistic professionals and were true examples of the center’s incredible success.

Jeff Ransdell & DJ Irie10

Jeff Ransdell & DJ Irie

Using the arts as a motivational and learning platform, the Irie Foundation has provided kids with a creative outlet for self-expression through its art programs. The students are encouraged to use their talents to increase self-confidence and build essential life skills. At the center, the children are taught how to write songs, produce music videos, edit music videos and, thanks to Irie’s efforts, may soon be able to listen to their very own music on the radio. Most importantly, the center works with each student to ensure that they turn their love for music and arts into a passion for academic success. Free tutoring lessons are offered to every single student and made mandatory for those students that want to participate in music and art classes but are receiving a “C” or below in one or more subjects in school. “Irie and his team are creating opportunities for these young kids to learn and to express themselves, and quite honestly I’m just proud to be a part of it,” said Ransdell who is the Managing Director and Market Executive for Merrill Lynch in the Southeast, Latin America & Caribbean.

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At the heart of the center is DJ Irie, whose goal is to provide at-risk youth with opportunities to express themselves through a creative outlet and in ways that would otherwise not be provided to them. He wants to be able to award the kids with the same opportunities and experiences that he was able to take advantage of when he was younger. “If I wasn’t able to experience and enjoy music and art at an early age, I don’t think I would be the person that I am today. Some of the kids in there know how to shoot, produce and edit music videos. When you have that knowledge you can take that and pursue it as a career. They don’t have to depend on anybody else, so the fact that all those things are available for them now really enables them to make that decision,” said Irie.

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The youth currently served by the center are walking testaments that the arts are an extremely powerful learning tool and exemplify just how critical a solid academic foundation is.

For more information on the Irie Foundation, please visit iriefoundation.org

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