Melina García – Union City Music Project - 2/11/15
Today I had the opportunity to visit the Union City Music Project where I awarded my first NJ Hero of 2015, Melina Garcia. Melina is the Founder and Executive Director of the Union City Music Project, which is in its 3rd year as a non-profit organization.
Melina is a native to Venezuela native who immigrated to Brooklyn with her mother at a young age. While in Brooklyn, she would pass the Brooklyn Conservatory everyday on her way to school, but unfortunately could not afford to attend. This was the second time Melina was unable to join a music program, as a similar program in her native country had run out of instruments by the time Melina was old enough to join. This would later inspire Melina to give the opportunity she missed as a child to others.
Melina was living in Union City when she and her husband decided to start a family. They thought about moving to a better neighborhood to raise children. However, she began to feel that if everyone with the means left Union City the way she had planned, there would be no one there to make a difference in the lives of the youth in the city she loved. She felt a calling to stay and make a difference. She started the Union City Music Project – an after school program designed to keep young people off the streets and teach them how to play a musical instrument in the process.
I had the opportunity to meet with and listen to the children who are a part of the program’s orchestra. They were so excited to be there practicing with their teachers and friends. The energy in the room was so inspiring and positive, it was hard to not be incredibly happy just to be there! Aside from her own love of music and the opportunities she missed as a child, Melina chose music education as an outlet for these children because of the proven benefits it has children’s academic progress, developmental skills, and the ability to set higher goals for themselves. Studying and practicing music allows children to feel as though they are a part of something and demolishes any limits they have set for themselves.
Melina has poured so much of her heart and soul into this program. The number of lives she has touched through UCMP is nothing short of amazing. Her dedication and service to making her community a better place is what makes her a NJ Hero. I am honored to name her my 32nd NJ Hero!
For more information on Melina and the Union City Music Project, please visit http://www.ucmusicproject.org/.