The Ark Music Program Grows Powerful Young Minds


Using Music to Expand Youthful Minds

When people think of musically based youth programs, their first thoughts might be ‘Oh, my child will learn to sing,’ or ‘Oh, my child will learn music production.’ But, how many music programs actually teach music production while striving to make an effort to delve into the layers of one’s mind to teach youth to think of music in a more socially conscience manner? Furthermore, how many music programs dip into all aspects of the world of music, even involving media? St. Sabina’s Ark music workshop, also known as “The Ark,” does just that.

Music and Beyond

The musically based workshop focuses on teaching youth how they can master the ability to think past the surface of the music. Participants are taught to think deeper, to become more aware of music. For example, they are shown how music can be used as a method to diffuse violence. However, The Ark is taking it a step further. The Ark is expanding its reach, growing the music program into a full multimedia studio experience. The executive director of The Ark program Jocelyn Jones and the Ark’s digital media specialist, Mack Julion, discuss the expansion as well as The Ark program as a whole. They helped us appreciate why The Ark continues to be a staple among community services in the Chicago area.

Preceding the Ark        

The original Ark program, initially called St. Sabina Community Center, closed down in the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine now, but it closed due to low attendance from the parish and underutilization of the facility.  Father Michael L. Pfleger re-opened the youth based program in 1992. Since then, The Ark program has continued to be a place many youths can easily call home.

Why Call it “The Ark?”

So why change the name to “The Ark?”  Jones says the name change was done by Father Pfleger to help people better understand the fundamental purpose of the programs at St. Sabina.“Father Pfleger called it The Ark because he wanted it to be a safe haven for young people to escape the storms of society and prepare them for a better life,” said Jones. “We try to do holistic programs for young people, mind body and spirit, and to help them be young leaders in the community.”

Music and Beyond to Multimedia

dsc_65821In addition to music, these young leaders can expect to learn lots of valuable skills from The Ark. The program has always featured a plethora of interactive after school and summer programs like recreational sports, health and nutrition and creative enrichment to youths and young adults from ages 6 to 21.

Julion says that youth who sign up for the new multimedia program can expect to learn significant multimedia skills. Participants will learn journalism, broadcasting, and photojournalism, as well as video production and photography. According to Julion, the program will “expose the youth to the world of creative media broadcasting and journalism skills.”

Giving Youth a Career Advantage

Clearly, youth will get a rich musical experience. Beyond that, those interested in media as a whole will learn some valuable journalism skills that most won’t learn until well into college. Julion says the need to expand the program was based on the need to teach the youth all facets of media. He explained, “We really want to introduce them to a world of creative resources to complement our other programs.”

How the Music Programs Have Evolved and Expanded

So, how is the expanded program different from the former one? The original program featured two musically focused components. One is Donda’s House, a Kanye West organization, that helps youth pursue their musical careers. Then there’s Hip-Hop Detoxx which teaches youth to resolve conflict non-violently through music within teams.

Infusing Learning into Having Fun


The overall Ark program is well received from the youth and the community as a whole.“It is something I am proud of because it’s so holistic,” said Jones as she expresses her love and appreciation for the program.  “Even though they’re coming for fun we still do things like S.T.E.M.(science, technology, engineering, and math) during a time a lot of the kids are just chilling. We make sure they are still mentally stimulated.”

Giving Youth Something to Appreciate

Julion adds that he has one main goal for anyone who’s a part of The Ark, whether it’s music, media or another program. He wants them to understand the collection of experiences the program has to offer and how it will affect their everyday lives.

He wants them to appreciate “what has been instilled in them throughout the years. I want them to look back over their shoulder and see a wide array of things, a holistic thing that was poured into them throughout their time,” Julion chimed in.

Showing Youth their Greater Purpose

Jones agrees with Julion but further explains the importance of youth understanding their purpose in life. “I want them to understand that they have a purpose greater than themselves,” she insisted. “Just innately–I think [it’s] human nature–we sometimes get caught up in Me, Me, Me, and what I need to do. It’s not about that. Everyone has a calling and a purpose. We want every kid to know that they are valuable, have hope for a great future and they are going to be able to make a difference…”

Julion says that he wants youth to understand that The Ark is a “beacon of hope” for a lot of people in the community.“What The Ark did for them they can do for someone else in the future,” said Julion. “If they can extend a hand for someone else in the future that would be great.”


Overcoming Challenges of Keeping Youth on Track

Because they are working with youth from all walks of life, Jones acknowledges that they are sometimes challenged to keep them on the right track. “I think the most challenging thing about working with youth is there is free will involved,” Jones said.  “Like a parent… a child makes the wrong decision and you just have to be there when they come back.”

Jones shed more light on the importance of being readily available for youth after they take a wrong turn in life.“I think we’ve all encountered that with young people, but one thing that they do know is that we’re there for them and we’re rooting for them,” she said. “And we’re not going to judge them, we’re going to support them…it’s a part of life.”

Falling Short is Not Failure

Jones leaves us one last tidbit on how she views success for a youth who has been a part of The Ark.  “Falling short is not the end of your story. It’s just staying there that is really a failure,” she insisted. “If we can show them how to get back up from falling then we’ve done the right thing.”


A Bright Future of the Ark

The future of The Ark is bright.  In addition to their new multimedia studio, The Ark will also train a new generation of future chefs. Through After School Matters, culinary programs will be on the agenda for youth. Also, in addition to an already hosted men’s mentoring program, The Ark will now have a women’s mentoring program that will address issues young girls and women face on a daily basis.

A Chance to Enroll

The community has a chance to join the programs Jones and Julion have passionately described. The Ark’s after school program ranges from ages 6 to 14 and the young adult program is for ages 14 to 21. The next enrollment for the programs started November 1st. To register, go online to


A Century of Faith, Education, and Service Celebrated

St. Sabina Church has continued to serve the community through various programs ever since it first opened in 1916. Originally a small storefront church on South Racine Avenue in Chicago, St. Sabina represented faith, education, and service from the very beginning.  During the Great Depression, St. Sabina took a leap of faith as the parish stepped up and took on the daring project to expand the church despite the then terrible economy.

The new cathedral-like church debuted on a Sunday in 1933 and since then has been known as a coveted center for religious and social activities. From Sunday dance parties to roller-skating and basketball tournaments, the church has always been intensely involved in community development. Lead by Father Pfleger and celebrating it’s Centennial, St. Sabina continues to be a pillar of the Chicago community working to make the city a better place.


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