OpporTUNEity is a co-curricular service-learning project that provides underserved youth with a unique opportunity to receive music lessons and mentoring from undergraduate students in a supervised, one-on-one setting. The program was founded by Melissa Martiros in 2014. Under her leadership, OpporTUNEity was awarded the Boys & Girls Club Tennessee Area Council Award for Program Impact Excellence in the Arts in 2014 and 2015. OpporTUNEity has nearly quadrupled in size and scope over the past year and we now offer piano, guitar, voice and violin lessons to nearly 150 children in South Central Tennessee. Current partners include the Boys & Girls Club of Pulaski, the Leaps & Bounds Programs at Southside, Pulaski, Richland and Ingram Sowell Elementary Schools. All OpporTUNEity students are required to are required participate in a number of outreach, fundraising and formal performances each semester.
In addition, the youth selected to be part of the program are required to meet the following criteria: display good behavior, commit to daily practice supervised by OpporTUNEity college instructors, commit to attending weekly lessons for at least 1 year, and display a willingness to learn and excel on their instrument or in their selected ensemble.
College student instructors receive work-study funds while simultaneously benefitting from service-learning opportunities through this program. They are required to actively journal about their experiences, and have presented this program to various civic clubs in the community. In addition, they presented this program at the 2015 Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning & Civic Engagement through Higher Education at the University of Arkansas.
As we rapidly expand and our program becomes more and more complex, our mission remains simple: to use college resources to bring musical opportunities to underserved youth in our communities, holding them to high standards of behavioral and performance excellence, while simultaneously providing engaging and enriching teaching and learning experiences to our undergraduate students. As we do this, we strengthen the ties our local communities, bridge class and racial gaps in our region, and enhance the quality of students we recruit to our undergraduate music program. In the end, everybody wins.