Creating Positive Change Through Music 

By: Bree Simmers

For MetroWest teens, being in a rock band doesn’t need to be limited to the confines of their garage. Plugged In is an experience they can share with others, while also lending a helping hand.

“Creating positive change through music” is the motto of Plugged In – an afterschool music program located in Needham for students of all ages, and a Foundation for MetroWest grant recipient.

Over the years, Foundation for MetroWest has provided Plugged In with financial support, as well as valuable professional development opportunities at no charge through the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy Education.

“As a young nonprofit, we definitely feel like the Foundation for MetroWest is in our corner,” explains Sandra Rizkallah, co-executive director of Plugged In. “These are people that understand our community, our constituents, and what we’re trying to do.”

Founded in 2002, Plugged In was created for kids who want to start a band, but don’t know how, have a place to practice, or know people to play with. Private music lessons are also offered for students who are new to their instrument or want to improve their skills.

Early on, Co-Founders Rizkallah and Tom Pugh began incorporating philanthropy into their program. They implemented a ‘Community Engage’ concert night for each session. In preparation for the event, students present causes that are important to them. Each student submits a charity of their choice and proceeds from the benefit concert are donated to the organization selected by the group of students.

“It’s amazing to watch these kids play music to help others,” explains Rizkallah. “It changes how they connect with each other and how they feel about each other. These concerts help them realize the impact they can have on others and their community. It’s a very transformative experience.”

The benefits Plugged In students receive extend beyond music and philanthropy.

“We want to give kids a place to enjoy music while collaborating with their peers and creating a strong support network for themselves,” explains Pugh. “We take all comers. We don’t send people away. We say, ‘come as you are’.”

Lucy, a local teen at Weston High School, joined Plugged In for the musical component, but what she received was much more. She had recently missed a significant amount of school due to medical issues. She had experienced great difficulty catching up from all the missed classes, but throughout the process she explained that the team at Plugged In helped her get through this difficult time. “I knew that I could really rely on the Plugged In family to be there for me, to stick up for me, to be my friends when I felt like I didn’t have anyone else.”

Lucy explained that the organization is about “discovering what you’re passionate about, and providing the tools to follow your passion. It’s a safe place. Even if people are having trouble fitting in at school, they can be themselves here and not have to worry about expectations. Everyone is accepted. There’s no judgment.”

Most recently, the Foundation awarded Plugged In an Arts & Culture grant to hire a capital campaign consultant, with the goal of raising money to secure a stable, long-term location that is suitable for offering their program activities.

The Foundation for MetroWest is proud to support Plugged In and its ongoing efforts to give young people a venue through which they can channel their creativity, learn to work in a group, and improve their music skills while learning about the value and importance of social activism. To learn more about the Foundation’s Arts & Culture grants, click here.

For more information about Plugged In and their available programs visit their website.