Checking In with: The Unity Project

It’s Testing Phase, and we’ve been making the rounds to participate in our Youth Challenge cohort’s events throughout Chattanooga. We’ve talked about these solutions for 6 weeks. Now we get the chance to see them in action.

Each Unity Project session begins with five minutes of silence. For that moment of quiet, students stand and concentrate on the word written in large letters on the board: FOCUS.

Marcellus’ program is part choir practice, part life coaching. The Unity Project’s mission statement, which the group recites by memory at the beginning of each session, demonstrates its intentional combination of life and creativity:

“Our mission is to unite and empower our members with artistic excellence by promoting training, discipline, professionalism and teamwork in a positive environment that allows every person the opportunity to grow and express their natural artistic abilities as they follow and fulfill their dreams!”

Their time together every Tuesday and Thursday is centered around music. Singing together provides an outlet for these students, who range from 2nd through 12th graders. It’s an opportunity for expression & self-confidence, where they can volunteer to sing a solo or just enjoy contributing their voices to each choir part. And for a group of kids who may not know each other well, harmonizing together serves as a bonding activity, preparing them to speak into each other’s lives as friends.

Every meeting involves the “hot seat,” where a student can volunteer to sit and share something going on in their lives. Marcellus placed the chair in front of the kids as an open invitation and quickly one female student sat down in it. “I know you all haven’t seen me in awhile,” she began and tearfully opened up about a personal issue.

Marcellus used this as an opportunity to encourage the students to respond with words of affirmation for their friend. She left the hot seat looking like a weight had lifted, rejoining the group as they began to rehearse a song called “Joy”. “There’s beauty in my brokenness,” they sang — lyrics that are all the more poignant because the Unity Project is a place where acknowledging brokenness is a first step towards flourishing.

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