South Orange and Maplewood Middle Schools are collaborating with the South Mountain YMCA to inspire students to share their voice while raising money for the Community Coalition on Race.

Students of both schools have been engaged in expressing themselves by writing poems for the Concert of Hope and to be published in an anthology.  These poems embrace the thoughts and feelings about the events that have unfolded over these challenging months.

The schools will then choose ten writers for the Concert of Hope: a live-streaming poetry reading event on Saturday July 18th at 7:00 pm on all YMCA social media platforms (see links below).

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The SOMA community and beyond will have the opportunity to support the Concert of Hope Fund with a suggested donation of $10, $25, $50 or other amount on the YMCAs website and fundraising platform. Every dollar donated will be donated to the Community Coalition on Race.

Sixth grade English Language Arts teacher Brandon Hillman said, “Our students have faced and overcome the many challenges that dominated these past few months - including the pandemic, virtual learning, and racial tensions boiling over throughout the country. This project serves as an outlet for many students to make their voices heard and gives their unique perspective on the current events of the world. We are all so thankful to the South Mountain YMCA and the Community Coalition on Race for giving our students a platform to share their experiences, as well as a way to give back to and make a real lasting change in their community.”

“Mr. Hillman and I have been excited to work together for some time. We share fond memories working at Montclair’s YMCA’s Camp at the Lake, in which we saw hundreds of children make memories to last a lifetime. While the South Mountain Y has been staying engaged with our teens over the last months, we are aware that for many, there has been much stress, anxiety, and isolation - all things that can impact mental health. This project gives students a voice. We think it’s important that people in our community recognize the challenges our young people have faced and appreciate what they have tackled, prevailed and overcome. Many obstacles,” said James Goodger, South Mountain YMCA Executive Director.

“Mr. Hillman and I discussed many options for potential funding recipients and both agreed this is the right partner of choice. The Coalitions work is vitally important to the health of our children, families and community at large,” said Goodger.

“The Community Coalition mission is to build and sustain a community that is racially, culturally and socially integrated and truly inclusive where there is equity and equality for all.” said Nancy Gagnier, Community Coalition Executive Director.

“There is a lot of work to be done, and we are thankful that we have been chosen to benefit from this collaboration, and grateful that students are benefiting from their involvement.”

Once the anthology of works is completed, all donors will receive a link for a digital download of the students’ collected work and recordings.

Donate today and tune in at 7pm on Thursday, July 18th for the top 10 poetry readings.

Metro YMCA You Tube 

South Mountain YMCA Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/southmountainy/