Highland Park woman gives children gift of music in her ongoing project to turn community around

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – Shu Harris is motivated to turning her community around, especially for the children.

She is the CEO of Avalon Village in Highland Park, a nonprofit organization that is buying up lots and transforming them into a park, garden, and homework house. 

Read more: Ellen gifts new house to Highland Park woman for her dedication to community

This summer, Harris provided a four-week music camp for children for free. The Sun Boy Record Music Camp taught children how to play different instruments, how to be a DJ, dance and much more. The camp ended with a recital day for parents to see what the children had been doing.

"It gives them a chance to participate in making their own music," Harris said.

Harris was inspired to create the Avalon Village in honor of her 2-year-old son, Jakobi Ra, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2007. The music camp is part of it.

"He was 2 years old, on the turntables," Harris said. "I knew then that his energy was that of an entertainer and I wanted to make sure that we do something for the children in the music way."

Michael Monford, the camp director, said music has elements of science and math in it, and teaches discipline and structure. He said habits learned from studying music can be applied to other areas of a person's life.

"You see them light up because, at first, when they're trying to learn an instrument, you see a little bit of frustration and if they aren't getting it at first... But as soon as they get that first note, you see their confidence go through the roof," Monford said.

Harris says the camp is the community's way of stepping up and doing what's right for the children.

"It helps them to stay happy. A lot of these children, they are happy when they come to music camp or when they're playing instruments so that is part of helping to build their self-esteem and helping them to be balanced and wholesome," Harris said.

Harris hopes to hold this camp every summer.

For more information on upcoming events and projects at Avalon Village, click here.

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