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"Motivational Edge' Provides Creative Outlet For At-Risk, Vulnerable Youth

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Whether its music, dance, visual arts, and more, "The Motivational Edge" is all about engaging young lives, many who are at-risk, and empowering them through creative expression and personal growth.

The organization was founded 12 years ago by Ian Welsch, a former Miami-Dade County school teacher, who saw that public high schools were pulling resources out of the arts programs and putting them into more standardized testing.

"We use culturally relative arts as a motivational platform to transform young lives, " said Welsch. "So we take music, dance, guitar, digital arts, all of that and get to know the kids and ask who are you, what makes you tick, and what do you want to be and where do you want to go?"

Many kids in the program are from tough neighborhoods, in foster care, or have been in the juvenile justice program.

"The Motivational Edge focuses on kids that truly, truly are on the edge and it's a tipping point, not only to go the wrong way. It's also a tipping point on the verge of success. Those great opportunities that happened when you're presented with a challenge. So it's our job to take challenging children and show them that really they are the opportunity," Welsch said.

Desmond Symonette, known as "Chize," teaches music in the Allapattah studios of The Motivational Edge. He grew up near where many of these kids live and knows their difficult lives first hand.

"I can use that as a way to say 'hey, let me show you how to really do this because I know what you're going through. I know why you want to drink. I know why you want to smoke. I know what you want to fight because I understand. So let me connect with you and let me speak your language'," Symonette said.

Thanks to the program, 17-year=old Antonio Agee is dreaming of a scholarship so he can attend Florida State for football and also a career in the music world. Chize is his teacher.

"When Chize came into the picture he opened my mind up about the studio and then he also just brought me in and he showed me the ropes. I was really appreciative of that. I never had anyone that did that for me before," said Agee.

For all involved, the goal at The Motivational Edge has always been clear.

"I just want success from everyone and understand that no matter what life throws at you, you can triumph from it and you have to be positive and you have to be strong," said Symonette.

"I want kids to be engaged. I want kids to be educated and from that, I believe they'll feel empowered," said Welsch.

Due to COVID-19, there are currently about 15 kids in the onsite studios in Allapattah and about 150 enrolled in the virtual program working every day to being engaged and empowered.

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