Guitars Not Guns Program Provides Creative Alternatives For Detroit's At-Risk Youth
Guitars Not Guns Program Provides Creative Alternatives For Detroit's At-Risk Youth

'Guitars Not Guns' Provides Alternatives For Detroit's At-Risk Youth

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Detroit's Guitars Not Guns program works to break the cycle of violence in Oakland County, Michigan by providing creative alternatives to at-risk youth. The program at the Oakland County Children's Village in Pontiac provides each girl one guitar at no cost for the duration of the six-week course. Upon completion of the course, each student is able to keep the instrument. The program is sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the international non-profit Guitars Not Guns charity, founded by guitarist and professor Bret Hoag, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Frank Szymanski and youth counselor, Tony Bittick. Guitars Not Guns has several chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

“This is a fantastic program because it’s something that everyone can learn and it’s a way for the girls to express themselves positively through music and songs,” Hoag said. “I can’t fix the world, but I can help open doors to higher education, which can help make a well-rounded individual.”

While trying to position her finger on the correct chord to produce G-minor, one girl practiced the chord quietly until she perfected it.

Tracy Huffman, youth specialist at Children’s Village, who practices guitar with the girls, said she has seen improvement in their behavior.

“Some of the girls that fidget or have nervous energy, I notice that it’s not as much,” Huffman said. “Also, I think this program is helping to build their confidence. This is a great alternative to be able to turn to if they are stressed or if they become angry.”

Guitars Not Guns' approach to educating and enriching the lives of troubled youth is one that deserves attention as gun violence increases across the United States and many cities struggle to provide useful alternatives to the most vulnerable of their citizens. Get more on Guitars Not Guns and donate to the charity via

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