One teen rapped about his troubles. Another played guitar and sang a Jason Mraz song. Others danced and played piano.
It was all part of a musical presentation given Tuesday by youths ages 12 to 18 who live at UCHRA’s three residential centers. The centers aim to create a home-like environment for at-risk children who come from dangerous, neglectful and dysfunctional family situations.
“Music is an outlet for them,” said UCHRA director of residential programs Brian Swearengen. “They really worked hard on this program and it shows.”
The first UCHRA residential center opened in 1988. Now there are three: Chance, a center for girls in Putnam County; Indian Mound, a center for boys in DeKalb County; and Cumberland Impact Center in Cumberland County. Each residential center can house 16 students.
Since the program’s inception, 146 students from Warren County have been enrolled. There are currently eight from Warren County enrolled.
The UCHRA music program, which is under the direction of Faye Fuqua, has been credited with helping some of the youngsters come out of their shell. Students performed a wide variety of song and dance numbers to a crowd gathered Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church Annex Building.
County Executive John Pelham told the students they are our future no matter what troubles they have experienced in the past. One student was praised for enlisting in the military and received an ovation from the crowd.
Students enrolled at the UCHRA residential centers have been subjected to a number of adverse conditions, including physical abuse. They are placed at one of UCHRA’s centers by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services when other alternatives are not suitable.
Upon placement, a number have not had their medical, dental and vision needs met in years. They arrive with the clothes on their back and often carry their personal belongs in a plastic grocery bag. They are in need of safety, education and structure.