Commission shows CitySongs as an after-school success

Morgan Thompson

A new commission on after-school activities highlighted a youth choir Friday to profile how successful programs can enrich communities.

CitySongs, an inner-city youth choir founded by University social work professor Helen Kivnick, performed following the first public meeting of University President Bob Bruininks’ Minnesota Commission on Out-of-School Time.

“We have a richness in Minnesota,” said Mary Ann Nelson, the panel’s commissioner. “We have a lot of caring people, and we have a lot of youth who do not know how easy it is to get connected.”

To help children get connected, Kivnick founded the CitySongs choir in 1992 to give at-risk youth a constructive activity to fill their time. The choir meets twice a week and targets third through eighth grade minority students from low-income neighborhoods.

More than 750 kids from St. Paul, North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis have sung in its more than 190 live performances, according to the group’s Web site. CitySongs’ main objectives include positive youth development, community service and musical excellence.

Bruininks described the discussion and performance as “truly inspirational.” Two years ago, he gave Kivnick a community service award for her work with CitySongs.

Twelve-year-old Andrea Arambulo, a CitySongs member for three years, said she likes to perform.

“We just love to sing. We like being with our friends, hanging out after school,” she said.

After the performance, adults in the audience were invited to sit and have a conversation with a child from the choir.

“It went great,” Kivnick said. “There are people who care about kids’ well-being. I love it when people in the audience want to see the kids succeed.”

Dale Blyth, dean and director of the University’s Center for 4-H Youth Development, said he is excited about the possibilities of the commission.

“It is a dream come true, to get wise people from all walks,” Blyth said. “To see what young people can do if we invest in opportunities for them. To have a president that gets behind it is a joy.”

The event was held at the Brown-King Center in St. Paul.

The commission is designed to promote youth development through community involvement during after-school hours.