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Kansas City-area nonprofit combating mental health challenges in teens with music

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Posted at 5:29 PM, May 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-23 18:29:48-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A nonprofit in Kansas City is fostering a sense of self-exploration and achievement among youth.

Art as Mentorship encourages young adults to tap into their emotions through music writing, producing and performing.

For founder, Enrique Chi, hearing his students like Isabella Burch share her story through his passion is like music to his ears.

“Everything just piles up and it hurts,” Burch said. “I felt like I had to hide everything. And so, I would act like I was fine and I would smile, but I wasn’t. So like, I wrote a song and I basically called it ‘Disguise’ because that’s what I’m doing is like, covering up in disguise.”

For 14-year-old Burch, much of her inspiration for songwriting comes from trouble at school. She said the never-ending work load and conflict with friends can weigh her down. When she plays the piano though, she feels like she can face the music.

“When I sit down and I want to tell somebody, I get too scared that they are going to judge me and they’ll not be there for me, I guess," Burch said. "But with a song, you just play it for them and it’s a lot easier to get the words out.”

It is at Art as Mentorship with her keyboard and her mentor, Enrique, where she has found comfort.

“I wish I would tell my younger self the same thing too,” Burch said. “Don’t be scared. If you need help, get help. A parent or someone you trust.”

Having grown up in a family of immigrants, Chi wanted to lift up the voices of historically underrepresented youth.

“If you add those to the natural challenges of growing up, then I think that the potential negative outcomes just can multiply. So we want to make sure this work exists in communities like that,” Chi said.

Going forward he hopes to create more accessibility points for teens like Burch in Kansas City area. He said once the new studio in Overland Park, Kansas, is finished, it will open up more opportunities for programs during the summer.

“They would just get up there, and just lay it out there, and say, ‘This is what I’ve been going through and I wrote this song about that.’ And then perform. And I mean, inevitably the crowd is like poof, like just moved by this experience,” Chi said.

The program is funded by people in the community who believe in their work. Anyone who would like to contribute to their on-going mission, can donate through a fundraiser going on right now with the Chicken N Pickle Foundation. It will match $20,000 for donors.

To read more about Art as Mentorships’ programs people can visit the nonprofit's website.