Every Tuesday as part of our Community Changers series, we highlight organizations making Memphis better. This week we caught up with a group that believes all kids need something to do.

Memphis Youth Arts Initiative is a non profit organization that provides access to performing arts. Corey Travis is the founder and executive director. He knows the impact music has on students.

“A lot of these kids go to schools that don’t have bands,” Travis said. “We provide free or affordable programming. We teach drums, we teach singing. We teach drama. Life skills.”

Eric Johnson was a fifth grader when he joined. Now, he is heading into ninth grade having written his own song called ‘C4’.

“Being here so long, I’m just thankful I get to write my own stuff,” Johnson said.

Jevon Hurt just graduated from Hamilton High as valedictorian and is Memphis Youth Arts’ summer intern. He’ll be heading to Visible Music College in the fall. 

“It showed me new things in life. Ways to navigate. How to get through situations. Mentorship helped me as well,” Hurt said.

M.Y.A.I’s motto is creating leaders through embracing the arts. Thats why, during the school year, they’re open from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We stay open until nine so they won’t get in trouble,” Travis said. “Parents have to work and get off and pick them up and go home. Homework is done.”

They offer a summer camp in July. We caught up with them right before camp started. We met twelve-year-old Trevon Johnson. When he wasn’t doing well in school, Mr. Travis took it upon himself to put him in drumline.

“Sometimes some kids need something to push them, Travis said.

And it worked! Trevon improved his grades and now looks forward to drumline every afternoon.

“Makes me feel good,” Trevon said. “Gets you out of the house and have fun.”

This is why our anonymous donor wanted to give Memphis Youth Arts Initiative a thousand dollars. Because every kid deserves access to music no matter where they attend school.

A true Community Changer.