Almost every day since joining the Boys & Girls Club, 11-year-old Manuel stood by the window to the Music Clubhouse. As he peered in, he was transfixed on the electric guitar. What the Music Clubhouse staff knew of Manuel was that he recently moved to the U.S. and only spoke Spanish. Because it was difficult for him to communicate with his peers, he had a hard time making friends and joining the activities around the Club.
The Music Clubhouse Director decided it was time to change that.
One day, the Director approached Manuel and managed to ask him in very broken Spanish if he wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Manuel eagerly nodded yes.
Despite the significant language barrier, the Clubhouse Director used gestures and the little Spanish he knew to explain the fret numbers of a guitar so Manuel could start to play songs. Armed with this basic foundation of guitar instruction, Manuel immediately began feeling welcome, important, and empowered.
“I saw Manuel change very quickly from being shy and less involved at the club to being one of our most enthusiastic and charismatic members,” explains the Music Clubhouse Director. “Since he picked up a guitar and started hanging around the Clubhouse, Manuel has continued to hold a sense of pride and belonging. He also learned English in about 4 months. He seems to be at peace with his new life in America, and I’m glad to see him making friends and finding his path to success and happiness in the Club.”
Now several months later, Manuel has learned many songs and is working almost every day on mastering the blues. His aunt is saving money to buy him an electric guitar.
For Manuel himself, the story is straightforward and powerful. “When I came to America, everything was different from my life before in the Dominican Republic: my house, food, language, and more. It wasn’t very long until I saw that there were many opportunities for me here to make art, use computers, and especially to play guitar”