They say music is the key to your soul. But in Worcester, Massachusetts, it has also become a bridge to building a bond between local police and inner city kids.
"It was my personal passion," said Worcester Police Gang Unit Officer Justin Bennes. "If you wanted to find me, come find me in my room with my guitar as a kid, so to me I felt like there had to be some kids in the city that felt the same way."
So Bennes founded the Arts and Music Police Partnership – or AMPP.
Seventeen teenagers are currently in the AMPP program, funded by the Shannon grant for the city of Worcester to combat youth violence in the inner city.
While AMPP jams together once or twice a week, they don't only talk about music.
"We also talk a lot about stuff that's important to them – police in America, police in the city of Worcester, what they feel and give these kids a voice," Bennes explained.
And the community has stepped up to help make this program possible.
"We actually took instruments right off our walls to give to kids that were interested in playing a particular instrument," said E.L. Music co-owner Matt Robbins.
Robbins not only donated instruments directly to the teens, but his customers have also been bringing in instruments and gear to give to the kids.
"It was just collecting dust, so I figured, 'Put it to some use with some kids who would give it some more care and love than I had,'" said Josh Vongkhamheuang, who donated musical gear.
The program is providing a promising future not only for their instruments, but for the teens who are now playing them.
"It allows them to have that voice that they're craving," Bennes said.
If you want to learn more about the AMPP program or find out how you can help, you can visit E.L. Music in Worcester.