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Sounds of Service

Univerity of California student Kane Li shares her life-changing experience volunteering for Music Changing Lives, a program that provides tutors and a room to record music.

For the Win is a guest blog series featuring the remarkable initiatives that young Americans are advancing to win the future for their communities. Each week we highlight a new young person and learn about their inspiring work through their own words. Submit your story to appear in the For the Win guest blog series.

Kane Li volunteers with Music Changing Lives, a nonprofit that offers mentorship to underprivileged and neglected children with the ultimate goal of helping youth build a better tomorrow. Kane serves as the University of California, Riverside club historian. Music Changing Lives is a recipient of the Daily Point of Light Award presented by Points of Light.

As a first-year student, college can be an intimidating place, but it is also a time for opportunity. When I initially signed up for Music Changing Lives (MCL), I didn’t realize what I was getting into. As I soon learned, MCL is more than just music; it is about giving students the opportunity to chase their dreams while encouraging them to pursue an education.

The idea for MCL started in 1988 when the now CEO, Josiah Bruny, opened his California home-studio to students to allow them to create tracks. Soon, his studio wasn’t enough. In 2009, MCL expanded to the Redlands Community Center, which is now equipped with a full recording studio, art room, basketball courts, computer labs, and many more resources for the students to use. Six different murals portraying various historical moments, painted by the art instructors and students, line the walls of the community center.

Kane Li

Kane Li volunteers at Music Changing Lives. (Photo courtesy of Points of Light)

From there, we recently expanded to Riverside County. At the Moreno Valley Youth Opportunity Center, MCL provides students with tutors four days a week to help them improve their grades as well as a room to record music. At Vista Del Lago High School, MCL is giving them the chance to use top of the line studio equipment to prepare for the first ever Live United Showcase where students will showcase their musical and artistic skills in a performance and art competition. By working together, United Way of the Inland Valleys and MCL hope to reduce drop out rates and encourage at-risk youth to stay in school.

There are currently two operating clubs for MCL at the University of Redlands and University of California, Riverside campuses. With the help of dedicated college students, Mr. Bruny is slowly expanding MCL in hopes of making his dream international.

MCL started extending plans to help rebuild 270 acres in several parts of Haiti and creating solar villages and teaching English in China during the upcoming summer. We all work hard in helping this organization become the best it can be in order to be a nation-wide nonprofit that will help students across the United States get the opportunity to fulfill their dreams while stressing the importance of education in order to give them a future.

MCL has made a deep impact on others, including me. Tutoring at the Youth Opportunity Center allows me to fully appreciate my life as well as inspire me to give back to the community. When I tutor the students, seeing their eyes light up when they understand the material is rewarding. I heard a student at Vista Del Lago say to the principal, “I’m Christian so I’ve been praying for an opportunity like this to happen,” while motioning to the makeshift studio in one of the band rooms. This made me smile. Volunteering at MCL doesn’t ever really feel like “work”. It’s too fun and too much of a great experience to be anything but meeting and helping new friends.

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Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.