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Professor shares music's power at detention center

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GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — Musician Nayo Ulloa has been teaching kids to play instruments for years, but his newest class at the Elkhart County Juvenile Detention Center is unlike any other he has ever encountered.

Ulloa recently started visiting the center twice a week, meeting with teens for hour-long sessions to talk about Latin American music, poetry and art from around the world, asking them to reflect on the meaning behind the pieces.

"That's the good thing about art," Ulloa, 55, told The Elkhart Truth. "There's no right or wrong answer."

The 11 residents in his class lit up when he entered the classroom with cowbells, guitars, drums, flutes and maracas in tow on Wednesday. He peppers his conversations with the group with life lessons he hopes they will carry with them. He wants the teens to know they can express themselves through art, but most of all, he wants to inspire them without preaching, leaving them with a sense of hope for their futures.

Ulloa grew up in Peru with a large family and sees pieces of himself reflected in the teens he meets with every week.

"I've never been in jail, but I grew up in extreme poverty," he said. "I was lucky that my family was together and I had art. I'm here because of music, and I used art to go forward."

Ulloa and his wife moved to Goshen about two and half years ago from California, and they hope to one day open a Latin American culture and language center in the Maple City. Ulloa, an adjunct professor at Goshen College, has a passion for teaching and used to visit classrooms on the West Coast to show kids how to play music. His program at the detention center is a new experience.

"They're like any other kids, really," he said, describing the detention center residents. "At first, I didn't know what to expect because I've never done this before. They're mostly the same, but once in a while, they'll surprise you by sharing something that's a little more traumatic that's happened in their lives that you wouldn't expect."

There are 14 residents at the center, ranging from 13 to 18 years old. Most are there for probation violations and bench warrants.

Maureen Lorman, an education specialist at the detention center, said she likes how well Ulloa connects with the teens.

"They're learning that you don't have to be super good at something to enjoy it, and if there's something you don't know how to do, learn how to do it and take a stab at it," Lorman said. "They're learning that it's OK to try something new, that it's OK to let your guard down and have some genuine fun."

Some of the most reserved, quiet teens have come out of their shell with Ulloa's help, Lorman said.

"One of them has struggled academically all of his life, and now he is writing poems for Nayo," she said. "That is huge right there. When we were having a discussion the other day, all of the sudden, he poured out his heart about his daddy and him walking out."

Ulloa visits the class two times every week and hopes to continue the program, getting more artists, musicians and dancers from the community involved.

"Art has power," he said. "Music is powerful."

Information from: The Elkhart Truth, http://www.elkharttruth.com

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  1. OK, now do something about this preverted anacronism

  2. William Hartley prosecutor of Wabash county constantly violates people rights. Withholds statement's, is bias towards certain people. His actions have ruined lives and families. In this county you question him or go out of town for a lawyer,he finds a way to make things worse for you. Unfair,biased and crooked.

  3. why is the State trying to play GOD? Automatic sealing of a record is immoral. People should have the right to decide how to handle a record. the state is playing GOD. I have searched for decades, then you want me to pay someone a huge price to contact my son. THIS is extortion and gestapo control. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW.

  4. I haven't made some of the best choices in the last two years I have been to marion county jail 1 and two on three different occasions each time of release dates I've spent 48 to 72 hours after date of release losing a job being denied my freedom after ordered please help

  5. Out here in Kansas, where I now work as a government attorney, we are nearing the end of a process that could have relevance in this matter: "Senate Bill 45 would allow any adult otherwise able to possess a handgun under state and federal laws to carry that gun concealed as a matter of course without a permit. This move, commonly called constitutional carry, would elevate the state to the same club that Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming have joined in the past generation." More reading here: http://www.guns.com/2015/03/18/kansas-house-panel-goes-all-in-on-constitutional-carry-measure/ Time to man up, Hoosiers. (And I do not mean that in a sexist way.)

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