When I was growing up in Missouri, our church denomination organized a group of selected teenagers from around the state to travel, sing and minister in the summer. My dad was instrumental in the organization of the group, so I was always "under foot" during rehearsals. The group was called the “IMPACT Singers” and I anticipated the time I would turn 16 and have the opportunity to travel with the group. It seemed so glamorous. I was only 10 or 11 at the time and wanted to emulate every girl singer in the group and fell in love with every teenage boy. Unfortunately, we moved to Nebraska before I had the chance.
I can’t imagine a group similar to this one would be feasible today. Middle class teenagers are far too overbooked to be able to donate an entire summer to travel. I hadn’t thought of the IMPACT Singers in years, until I was watching television late last night.
Nightline ran a story about the Impact Repertory Theater in Harlem. This group was first introduced to the public through the movie “August Rush” (perhaps my favorites of the year) and then again at the Oscars. Jamal Joseph, the founder of the group had more in mind than simply creating singers, dancers and actors when he envisioned IMPACT. Each member of of this group must audition; survive a strenuous “boot camp”; pledge service to family, friends and community; AND commit to college. WOW—talk about making an IMPACT.
Joseph “gets” that teenagers need to be connected, plugged in and given opportunities to find fulfillment through hard work and education. These kids are from the inner city; many have been in jail or led troubled lives, yet will travel two hours by train to be a part of IMPACT and to have the opportunity to turn their lives around.
It is difficult to get middle-class children to grasp the discipline it takes to create a fulfilled life. I am not talking about financial success. I am speaking of a rewarding life that makes a difference. For my own children, I long for them to value service to others, education and commitment. My wish for them is to aspire to create an IMPACT.