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At Longfellow Alternative School, music is strengthening families

At Longfellow Alternative School, music is strengthening families
At Longfellow Alternative School, music is strengthening families 02:22

MINNEAPOLIS -- You've probably heard the phrase music is the universal language. At a very special place in Minneapolis, that language is actually strengthening families.

At Longfellow Alternative High School, students are also parents. Mariah is Vivian's mom.

"For me, I have gone through a lot in my life. Struggled with addiction, struggled with a lot, and so she literally saved me," Mariah Dolley said. "I don't think I would be at this school right now, I don't feel like I would be getting my education right now if it wasn't for her and wanting to be a better person. So I feel like she is just a total blessing in disguise."

Ismaela Delgado's blessing is named Victoria.

"It's just like a new type of love. I love it, everything she does," Delgado said.

Each Tuesday, they make music together.

READ MORE: "It's wonderful": Hennepin Theatre Trust partners with Disney to bolster arts education

Longfellow only has about 30 students, so resources are tight. But through a grant, they now have a boisterous music program run by local choral nonprofit VocalEssence.

"All of the moms have so much on their lives, on their plates and their lives. They are teenagers who are living adult lives with adult responsibilities," said VocalEssence Associate Artistic Director G. Phillip Shoultz III. "So what I found is they don't have an opportunity to really express themselves."

They do now. They get multilingual instruction, and recently, they got professional vocals from 29:11 International Exchange, a group visiting from South Africa.

"For me it's really important because music brings you that rhythm that babies can catch and it's a way that you can teach your kids new words," Delgado said.

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"I feel like its important because you want to make sure that your kid understands stuff and make sure that you are connecting with them," Dolley said.

"The music here at Longfellow I think gives them an opportunity to I won't say to escape from the world, but to take a pause, to just nurture their own souls, to find their unique voice, to laugh," Shoultz said. "A way just to provide a source of healing and wellness in the midst of a lot of trauma and a lot of heavy stuff that they are so strongly moving their way through."

Dolley feels the music gets her even closer to her daughter.

"I definitely do because every time that she smiles when we're doing a little song or whatever and she starts dancing, it just brings so much joy to me and makes me love every second of being a mom," she said.

And that is the point. Even when the beat is unexpected, they are savoring the rhythm of life.

Both the teens WCCO talked with are making major strides. Mariah will graduate next year and plans to one day become a nurse anesthetist. 

Delgado will graduate in May. She's going to college for business, and she will actually be singing at graduation.

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