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How AMPED transforms the lives of foster kids through music
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Jonathan Stoner, a board member of the AMPED Kids foundation, gives free guitar lessons to a local foster child.

For many people music can transport them back to a happier time or offer a temporary escape from the challenges of life.

The AMPED Kids Foundation, which has served the Hall County area for more than a year, aims to use the uplifting power of music to transform the lives of foster children. 

“Music therapy can really play a big part in their healing process and helping them overcome some of those challenges and feelings,” April Rooks, the foundation’s director said. “Many times when a child goes through something like that, it’s hard for them to be able to vocalize and express their feelings. Giving them a form of expression to do that is very helpful.”

AMPED is a 501(c)(3) under the umbrella of the Georgia Community Foundation and offers free private music lessons to kids ages 7-18.

The nonprofit, which has 14 students enrolled, funds not only the lessons, but instruments and instructional books. The type of classes involve vocal training, piano, guitar and drums. 

The instructors come from the nonprofit’s different partner locations including Let There Be Rock Schools and the Lakewood Music Institute. AMPED currently has 10 partner instructors. 

“The other beautiful part of music lessons is that the instructor and student relationship organically becomes a mentorship type relationship,” Rooks said. “It’s so vital for foster children to have great mentors.”

Rooks said AMPED finds its students through its partnership with Hall-Dawson CASA and the Department of Family and Children Services. 

AMPED has started up its band scholarships, which completely funds middle and high school students’ journey through their schools’ band program. So far, the organization has offered the scholarship to two students. 

Rooks, who is a musician, said she has experienced putting her son through the band program at Chestatee High School. 

She has seen how it affected her son by building camaraderie and a sense of family among his band peers. 

“That’s very needed for foster children that are often times either temporarily or permanently away from their family of origin,” Rooks said. “To have a peer group that they can connect and relate with, it not only helps them find their own identity and where they fit, but it also gives them a positive outlet.”

Before founding AMPED, Rooks worked in the marketing field and as a professional musician. 

After volunteering to perform at a couple of CASA fundraising events, the rest was history. 

At each event she would listen to a former foster child give their testimony.

“I was so moved to hear about their experiences, challenges and seeing their success,” Rooks said. “Music is so powerful, if we can give the gift of music to foster children, what a difference and an impact it can make in their lives both short-term and long-term.”

Looking toward the future of AMPED, Rooks said she plans to set up recording studio tours  around Atlanta for groups of foster children to learn about the recording process. 

She also intends to coordinate meetings between foster children and famous musicians to motivate them to “keep going and learn about their life experiences.”

On Saturday, Oct. 5, AMPED will hold its second annual Rhythm and Brews fundraiser at Left Nut Brewing Company in Gainesville. 

The event will include a cornhole tournament, live music, raffle drawings and activities for children. Admission is free. 

Rooks said the nonprofit relies on sponsorships, individual donations and fundraisers like Rhythm and Brews to stay afloat. 

“Our broader message is that we hope the community grows in awareness that these foster children and all of our children, they’re the future of the community,” Rooks said. “As we invest in our children, we’re investing in our community as a whole.”

For more information about AMPED or to make a donation, visit ampedkids.org or call 678-851-4992.


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