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The SJP Experience: Empowering Girls and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Through Music

Stories | 07.13.20

At Adler University, first-year students work with community organizations through their Social Justice Practicum (SJP) to help advance social justice.


Lori Wilson completed her SJP at Girls Rock!, a music and arts camp that encourages girls and gender non-conforming youth to express themselves creatively. Girls Rock! is a national organization with community-based and collaborative environments to provide music lessons, social justice workshops, body-positivity, and team building for youth ages 8-16. Wilson, an Online Campus student in the Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology program, shares her experience with Girls Rock! in Grand Rapids, Michigan, run by Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

Working with Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities has been an amazing experience. I had the good fortune to connect with the youth and parents of a community within my city that was new to me. They provide an orientation for new volunteers, interns, and staff that is focused on the aspects of Social Emotional Learning, a learning style focused on self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

They also teach strategies for effectively working in communities of color within a white dominated culture. Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities works to educate their staff and volunteers on how this culture is deeply embedded in our society and institutions, and how to work toward collective liberation. They encouraged us to always be reflecting on our own behaviors, assumptions, and ideas about what is good for other people, especially our youth.

My internship took a shift to a virtual platform during the pandemic. COVID-19 has affected the organization as it has many others. With their strong, connected, and passionate leadership, the organization worked to creatively support their community by providing resources to their community. This included: Providing equipment like computers and wireless internet for families, sharing credible information on COVID-19 resources, developing resources for the mental and social needs of the children in their community, and continuing to raise funds to support programs like Girls Rock.

This experience, along with our SJP class assignments, helped me to take a deeper look into my own behaviors, assumptions, and ideas. It challenged me to think differently about how I support the youth within the Girls Rock! Program, so that I am being a true asset and ally. It also encouraged me to think differently about my approach with interpersonal and group conversations and how I can educate and advocate for awareness. This aligns with Adler University’s mission to produce socially responsible practices, community engagement, and social justice. My Social Justice Practicum helped me step outside of my comfort zone and gain diverse perspectives, furthering my knowledge and providing experiences I can carry with me academically, professionally, and personally.

I look forward to what the future has to offer with this knowledge empowerment I have been gaining. I’m interested in utilizing my skills and abilities to help organizations create change and positively affect employees through corporate social responsibility. I’d like to help organizations understand how these efforts not only make them a good corporate citizen, but also how that can organically build a talent pipeline and increase employee retention.

One of the reasons I was drawn to Adler University was due to the underlying themes of social justice, diversity, and inclusion. Being a white, cisgender woman, I recognize the privilege I have, and I want to continue to strive to be an advocate for change. Connecting with a community organization focused on driving change initiatives towards awareness, intention, and accessibility to resources has allowed me to reflect even deeper on the disparities in communities and inequity built into our institutions. My faith in change is recharged knowing that this organization exists to educate our youth and provide awareness to the surrounding community. When I see young girls from very different backgrounds come together through music and arts—empowering one another at such a young age—I cannot help but be inspired.

For Chicago Campus Adlerians who want to get involved with this organization, there is a Girls Rock! Chicago chapter.


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