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#AlwaysThere: OnRaé Watkins

$143,543 of $200,000 raised.

We didn’t know that Raynia and Keara could sing.

Maybe OnRaé didn’t know, either. But, she wanted to hear their voices anyway.

An artist and educator, it was OnRaé’s third year working with teens in Reach’s Summer Leadership Academy (SLA). And, with her guidance, a group of teens in the program were tasked with writing and performing an original song.

But, as sometimes happens, not everyone in the group felt the same level of excitement. Some teens could not wait to get behind a microphone or in front of a camera. Other teens, like Raynia and Keara, were less enthusiastic. After all, singing in front of others can be scary. That’s why so many of us choose to perform only in the safety of our showers.

OnRaé was undeterred. She had exacting standards, but she was confident our teens would rise to the occasion. So twice a week, she’d kick off her shoes and start dropping beats. Everyone was required to join in, no matter how reluctant they were. Off-key, off-pitch, off-beat: it didn’t matter. The point was to raise their voices. The point was to be heard.

By the end of the summer, the group had written an original song. Determined to give her students as authentic an experience as possible, OnRaé booked time in a studio and partnered with a videographer to create a music video.

And that’s how we discovered that Raynia and Keara could sing. Take a moment to watch our talented teens perform their original song, Tunnel Vision – that’s Raynia and Keara singing the hook.

OnRaé created a safe space for our teens to be their authentic selves. But, she also insisted that they show up, contribute, and give their best effort. And, because she demanded excellence, they delivered. Thank you, OnRaé, for being #AlwaysThere for our teens.

All this month, we will be sharing stories about members of the Reach community that are #AlwaysThere for the organization and our participants. OnRaé Watkins is a DC-based music producer, videographer, and creative arts educator. She’s been working with teens in Reach’s Summer Leadership Academy since 2017.

Make a gift here to support our 2020 #AlwaysThere campaign.

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