by Michelle DeRusha
Ragan Rieves, 11, and his peers are marching to the beat of their own drums—literally— thanks to a brand-new youth music program that launched in September at the Omaha, Neb., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
“I feel like it’s making me happier,” Ragan said. “I look forward to Wednesday nights now.”
Ragan, who is learning to play the drums, is one of 20 youth, ages 7-16, enrolled in the Kroc School of Music, a free program that meets on Wednesday evenings year round. In addition to group instrumental lessons in drums, trumpet and guitar, the program includes dinner, a short Bible-based lesson, choir and an opportunity to socialize and play games in the Kroc Center’s Loft, an area dedicated to kids and teens.
The School of Music was developed and launched by Captains Alex and Carolina Yanez, who currently lead the center and developed a similar music school in their former corps appointment, Cold Spring, Wis.
“We grew up in The Salvation Army church and saw firsthand that whenever there were kids’ programs, families came to church, too,” said Captain Carolina. “One of our goals is to grow the church out of this program, and it’s already happening. We have three families with a total of nine kids regularly attending church now.”
Captain Carolina also has witnessed the positive educational impact the music program has had on the participants, from building their confidence and improving focus to fostering leadership skills. “We know music helps develop their brains,” she said. “And the social connection is important for them, too.”
Angelica Cepeda, whose two sons are enrolled in the program, appreciates that the music school allows her kids to try a variety of instruments at no cost. “They love to sing, they love music, and they love to play instruments,” she said. “And I see their confidence increasing. They aren’t nervous to perform.”
The Yanezes are thrilled that the music school has taken off so quickly and are excited to expand the program over the next several months.
“We are grateful to God for providing everything we have needed so far for success—the students, the instructors, the instruments, the resources,” said Captain Carolina. “We love that the kids are engaged and enjoying the program. No one ever wants to miss a Wednesday night.”