TOLEDO, Ohio — This past summer, the city of Toledo made a push for more youth programs to keep kids engaged and away from the violence plaguing the streets.
My5tery Music has been using the "international language" of music to inspire kids and keep them off the streets. The group practices out of St. Martin de Porres Church in central Toledo on Wednesdays and Thursdays. But the lessons the students learn are about much more than just making noise.
At practice, you'll see formations, linework and communication. Errick Dixon started My5tery Music 10 years ago to help at-risk youth succeed by showing them his love of music.
"In order to keep their membership, they have to be in constant compliance with their parents and constant compliance with their teachers," he stressed.
He runs a tight ship, teaching the kids about respect and being a part of a team.
"He can be hard on you but it's for a good reason," 11-year-old Jamichael Byrd said.
"If you join My5tery Music, it's like you have a lot of support," said Kaliyah Reed, "and they give you a lot of confidence and they help you and support you in the things that you do."
"It helped me boost my confidence and now I really don't care what others think of me," Nina Williams said.
Dixon is joined by his son, Jahcory Dixon, who is a product of the program and now runs the drumline. He says they learn about time management, how to talk to one another and other people with respect and how to be responsible.
"They learn that consequences come with any action they have," Dixon said, "whether it be good consequences or bad consequences."
The elder Dixon may run the group like a boot camp instructor but the kids listen to him. He believes that type of role model is what kids need to stay away from gangs and violence.
"If you don't have any accountability at a young age, chances are you'll have that same mindset going into adulthood," Dixon said.
He believes that kids really just want someone to believe in them. So the positive push they instill in the students, he believes, goes a long way toward helping the kids succeed.
The program is currently in 10 schools, including Toledo Public Schools. But the group is also looking to expand to schools and districts that can't afford it. Dixon started a GoFundme called "My5tery Music's Rescue the Arts™ Initiative."