Donald E. Long students enter national songwriting competition

When David Shine, an English teacher with the Multnomah Education Service District, and Multnomah County Library (MCL) Program Specialist Jody Redifer teamed up, their goal was to bring the youth at Donald E. Long (DEL) Juvenile Detention Center together for a national songwriting competition. The library’s outreach work at DEL is made possible by a longstanding partnership between the library and Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice.

The songwriting competition, held by BreakFree Education, supports the organization's mission to “radically improve education in the juvenile justice system.” 

Microphone and audio equipment on shelf at library

For Jody, who has been facilitating a music production class in the library at DEL since late 2020, it was exciting to have English teacher David Shine approach him to collaborate on this competition.

During his time teaching the music production class, Jody has recorded over 200 songs by more than 50 youth. With the combination of David and Jody working together, students at DEL were thrilled to have this project underway. David took lead on the writing, and Jody managed the production and engineering. 

Through the songwriting competition youth not only explored music, but also the specific themes pertaining to each song. It is this lesson plan component that allows the youth to grow introspectively, while gaining new musical skills. 

BreakFree Education’s mission for this program is that "through this initiative, students explore policy issues that impact their lives. Students harness the power of music to create, produce, and share songs that address issues related to juvenile justice reform.” The songwriting competition is the result of this work, and through it the organization “amplifies the voices of youth justice.”

Students at DEL put their all into the songwriting and performances. This is something which may sound practical, but is not always easy in a detention environment. They expressed their perspective on social conditions and the struggles they and other youth face.

As a result of the hard and thoughtful work the youth put in and the collaboration between MESD and MCL, two of the units at DEL finished in the top 10 nationwide, with unit A2 taking 3rd place on October 28, 2021!

Students at DEL, David and Jody are excited for the prospect of more partnerships like this. In the immediate future, the next collaboration looks to be the publication of works of fiction and non fiction by the students at DEL with the help of MCL. With David working on the writing aspect, and Jody on the publication side, this is bound to be a successful venture! Again bridging the creative ideas of youth, into hands-on and constructive skills.

Article written by BCLA Program Specialist Jody Redifer, with support from Communications Specialist Paty Rincon

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What a great program. I love the ways in which this engages students and builds skills, confidence and pride. Hats off to Jody and David--and the youth at DEL. *High Ten* !!
The third place submission is available to listen to on YouTube: "Impact Statement Unsung 2021 Third Place" - date: Oct 28, 2021

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