When Melina Garcia moved to Union City, she found few arts programs for children in the community.  She was familiar with El Sistema – an orchestral music program for children in her homeland of Venezuela.   Her vision to introduce music and arts to Hudson County’s children led to the creation of Union City Music Program in 2012.  Under her leadership, the program has grown immensely -- from the “Paper Orchestra” of preschoolers who learn about making music using hand-made paper instruments, to the bilingual, classically trained teaching artists who provide instruction to older students on string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.  

With the motto “Inspire, Empower, Succeed,” Melina helps students develop a life-long love of the arts through opportunities to perform with world-class conductors, attend performances at top concert halls, and visits to universities for cultural activities.

Please nominate an “Unsung New Jersey Hero” like Melina Garcia for the 2020 Russ Berrie Making A Difference Award. Up to 10 people will be selected for awards ranging from $7,500 up to $50,000.  Learn more and nominate online at berrieawards.ramapo.edu.  Deadline is February 21.