ALLturnatives, Inc. provides an outlet through performing arts for at-risk, low-income youth – WFAE | Candle Made Easy

In Charlotte, hundreds of youth have been able to play instruments, play sports, and learn to pantomime, all for the low cost of $5.

ALLturnatives, Inc. provides performing arts education primarily to at-risk, low-income youth. The curriculum focuses on music, arts, entrepreneurship and physical education. Children participating in the program have the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities including drama, stage design, visual arts and drumlining.

Michelle Wyms founded the organization in 2012, a year after her mother’s death. She was inspired by her mother’s dedication to helping the community. Her home was a safe place for neighborhood children who were uncomfortable talking to their own parents.

“Growing up in that environment for years and having the kind of family that we had and seeing other kids who didn’t have the opportunity to have what I had,” Wyms said. “I think all children deserve to have a sense of family.”

Wyms founded ALLturnatives after being inspired by her mother’s dedication to serving the community.

Wyms was similarly inspired by her brother to include entrepreneurship in the curriculum. Her brother struggled with anger issues as a child, but after being gifted a DJ set and a barber chair, he ended up opening a hair salon and running a small DJ business.

“Of course we want our children to learn and be raised in different ways,” Wyms said. “But there are other ways to make money and other ways to have a sense of self-worth.”

Providing at-risk youth with a performing arts education is important to Wyms, as it can be a healthy outlet for struggles at school or at home. Drawing can be calming for students, or students who want to express anger can channel it into drums.

“Instead of handing them a gun, give them a drumstick,” Wyms said. “Give them something different. Having those things makes a versatile student.”

In addition to workshops for adults on parenting skills and entrepreneurship, there are camps for children that focus on art, pantomime and sports. ALLturnatives also integrates therapy into its curriculum. Wyms draws on techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy and anger replacement training, such as: B. Holding sessions with children on how to respond to different scenarios.

In one instance, children in the drum line split into two teams. One team was instructed to move a blindfolded student from one end of the room to the other using only verbal instructions while members of the other team made as much noise as possible. The purpose of the lesson was to show how difficult it can be to listen to others when angry.

“Instead of giving them a gun, give them a drumstick. give them something else Having these things makes a versatile student.”

— Michelle Wyms

ALLturnatives offers programs for adults through its “multi-system model,” Wyms said. If families want their children to participate in the program, they must also participate. Wyms asks families to attend events and help with fundraising, and parents often attend workshops or career fairs.

“Often our kids get dropped off and picked up by different programs, (but) not mine,” she said. “You have to be a part of it because I need to see that you’re invested in her.”

Wyms said she has seen positive results from the program. Some children were able to overcome behavioral issues and others said the program was their safe place and the staff and other children were like family.

“We’re here and you’re not alone,” Wyms said. “If you need us to turn your words into wisdom, that’s our goal.”

In the future, Wyms hopes to transform ALLturnatives into a multi-purpose center offering services such as transportation, therapy and meal assistance to all youth and families. Wyms also eventually hopes to expand the drumline to various locations across the county. At the moment the center needs vans to transport the children and a trailer to haul equipment to events.

ALLturnatives is currently in East Charlotte at Sacred Souls Community Church and if you’re in the area on a Saturday afternoon you might be able to hear the drumline rehearsal.

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