Miles Nasta | MCA

Collaborating with youth to discover the keys to success.

Finding a way to share your talents with students is both challenging and inspiring, just ask Middletown High School graduate Miles Nasta. During his senior year, Nasta was building a strong body of work as a musician and had been recently accepted into the prestigious Berklee School of Music (Boston). He also found an opportunity to build confidence in young students through a grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts (MCA).

The idea of a grant started with MCA Commissioner Lee Godburn, who hoped to expand the current grant's process to also allow for younger/teenaged applicants. According to Middletown Arts Coordinator Stephan Allison, the grant helped "to spark an interest in the arts at an earlier age while educating youth on how municipal taxes can work for them."

Miles concept for the grant was simple: work with local youth to help change perspectives on rap music. In his mind, many adults only heard or understood rap music to be a negative cultural influence and Miles wanted to give people an opportunity to see the good it can generate. To do this, he proposed working with his peers (6th to 12th graders) to produce a CD that focused on the 40 Assets and used it's theme to promote positivity. Under the guidance of a few adult role models Miles wrote, submitted, and received notice that his grant was approved.

It quickly became apparent that producing the album would become a great opportunity to promote assets during the collaborative process with fellow students. While writing "What I Wanna Be" four students were able to discuss what they wanted to become when they got older. They continually referenced receiving a good education and listening to adults (especially parents) as the keys to success.

Each person who contributed to the album is tied to Middletown.

All of the voices on the CD were our students and the instrumentals and beat making were all donated by Evan Manners, another talented musician from Middletown, who worked off location while attending music school in New York. Through and through, this was a community-wide project.

So when the came time to share the album with Middletown, Miles found great joy in watching other people open it. "When I saw the parents of the students who had heard the CD for the first time I was able to see how proud the parents were of their kids when they were given the opportunity to be creative. We were excited that we could finally show Middletown the amount of talent its youth has." The feeling was also mutual for Stephan Allison, who describes the album as "a pleasureā€¦and evidence of a successful grant-giving decision."

Providing youth the chance to learn skills and dedication.
Shifting thinking to focus on engaging youth development.
Collaborating with youth to discover the keys to success.
Being welcoming builds confidence in the social skills of youth.