What began as a small children’s choir for a women’s Christmas event is now a fully operational after-school music-mentoring program. Angel Street serves girls ages 8-18 through musical performance training, songwriting, production, private music lessons and more. The all-girl environment provides a safe place for participants to share their voice both inward and outward. With nearby community centers and youth development programs heavily focused on male-centered activity through sports and game play, Angel Street has struck a chord in Memphis with the female audience.
One of the biggest challenges we have faced in the past few years as an after-school program has been consistent with other youth development programs: transportation. Whether it is transporting the girls to and from rehearsals throughout the week or to and from a special event each month, Angel Street has shared the struggle in maintaining consistency of participation/attendance and logistics with this void. One of the factors that contributes to our challenges around transportation is the amount of movement and turnover within the communities we serve. For example, there are a lot of girls who change residence throughout the school year, sometimes moving outside our zip-code and service footprint. Currently, about 90 percent of our participants come from single-parent homes with the parent working multiple jobs, so the availability of transport is limited. In some cases, reliability of transportation for our families has been the issue.
Through Angel Street we offer a creative outlet for girls, giving a productive and positive alternative to those seeking after-school engagement. Currently, no other programs of this kind are being offered to the North Memphis community. The vision of Angel Street is to empower young women to understand their value, discover their purpose, and become creatively equipped to serve their communities as leaders. We currently meet at the Bickford Community Center Monday through Saturday, but our two-year goal is to solidify the local chapter infrastructure in order to duplicate throughout other neighborhoods in need of such programming. Angel Street will always seek to serve areas that have limited artistic opportunities in under-resourced communities.
One of the solutions to our transportation issue came recently in the form of a grant for infrastructure from the Memphis Music Initiative. This grant will allow Angel Street to purchase a 14-passenger vehicle to utilize through the week and will help monthly with special event transportation. Prior to receiving this grant, strategic partnering with local schools has been perhaps the most efficient solution for this semester. One of the schools with the highest level of participation in Angel Street programming saw the challenge we face and assisted with an after-school bus that transports participants directly to our center on rehearsal days. Additionally, working closely with the school that sits directly next to the center where we rehearse has obvious advantages as well. Relationships with partner schools are truly vital to our program.
With the support of the community and community leaders, we can all work together to offer the best programs possible to the youth we are serving. Collaboration has been the single biggest factor for us in addressing any challenge we face, with transportation at the top of the list. It truly takes a village to help move the needle, and by voicing our challenges and working together to engage real solutions, we can achieve far greater things. Together, our biggest concern should be not allowing this deficit in logistics to eliminate the very individual we are striving to reach the most. Collectively, our focus should remain on building up future leaders in our communities.
Jill Dyson is an accomplished gospel singer/songwriter from Memphis with a passion for her faith, family, music, city and philanthropy. For more than a decade, Jill has been featured in national and local jingles, compilation and individual CD projects, various local media outlets and more. Jill founded Angel Street Memphis in 2013, where she began putting her focus on mentoring young women through music. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the organization which has seen tremendous growth in the past four years. She is a wife and mom to three sons and a Goldendoodle named Leo.