Lena Parnell (Season 1, Episode 14) » Mitch Albom
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Category : Heart of Detroit
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Air date: January 23, 2014

Like many of us Lena Pernell fondly remembers after school activities. Lena: We would be in the building until like 7:30 or 8:00. You had track practice; basketball practice there was like a calligraphy class. So she was shocked a few years ago, when she and her sister went to pick up her nephew from a Detroit public school. Lena: He is like sitting outside on like a little stoop and there is nobody around and I was like where is everybody and she was like they are gone home and the doors to the school were locked and I’m like there aren’t any after school programs and she kind of chuckled like why would you even suggest that. Budget cuts have left many Detroit public schools vacant after 3 o’clock. Pernell created a program to change that. Called Real Life My Music, it transports art, music and dance classes to Detroit public schools. Lena: We are like a traveling circus. Lugging instruments and supplies from her mothers basement, Pernell and other volunteer teachers gather in whatever rooms they can get unlocked. Lena: If we have a gym we have a gym if we have a classroom where we have just taken all the desks out we just have a classroom and the kids enjoy it so. Mitch: Have teacher will travel Lena: Yes (laughing) Pernell moved back to Detroit to establish this program, which she and others do for free. Lena: You hear the term extra curricular you just think that its disposable like it is extra no body needs it but I feel like those programs develop transferrable skills in the students that they aren’t getting anywhere else. I was raised by a single mom and I know how tough it can be and I feel like if I can give them a reason to go to school everyday then it would be selfish of me not to help them do that. Pernell’s biggest challenge is paying for a custodian or guard to watch the building during her classes. She is trying to raise donations. Meanwhile, her Real Life My Music program is unlocking the joy of afterschool activities and putting it back here in the heart of Detroit.

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