"Young Americans" hit Rifle to promote music, individuality for students

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Students in Rifle didn't have school on Friday, but that didn't stop 140 kids from flooding the classrooms of Rifle Middle School.

They've been to Asia, they've been to Europe, and of course, all over the United States. Now the Young Americans are in Rifle with the goal of keeping music in the classroom and teaching students it's okay to be themselves.

For some students, it took some persuasion, but it was an experience Rifle music teacher Laura Oysti couldn't let her students pass up. Friday was a day of expression and performing with a group of Young Americans.

"I think this is an opportunity that not many kids get," Oysti said. “I know there are so many kids in this school that need something like this."

The Young Americans was founded in 1962. Today, more than 250 staff members span the globe bringing the performing arts to new students. While the students all learn to put on a show, if you watch closely, you'll see it's much more than just a show.

"It’s more about learning how to do things, self esteem, character building, all of that sort of stuff," Young American staff member Andrew Fields said.

For some students, this was a chance for students to celebrate their individuality.

"They make us proud of who we are. And that's really hard to do when it's just yourself and you don't have that support line. So this is exactly what a lot of us needed," high school freshman and participant Alex Flores said of the Young Americans.

It's also a way for the Young Americans to promote music in schools, because many of its members have seen first hand -- often times through these Young American programs -- the difference music can make in a person's life.

"A lot of schools are pushing out music, and we want to help bring that back," Fields said.

"After the workshop I was really confident and I had a lot of dreams to be a performer," staff member Roshad Gunter said of his experience with Young Americans as a student.

While some were hesitant at first, the Young Americans are hoping these students will take what they learned and use it to express themselves in every day life.

Part of the program means some of the Young Americans will stay with local families in Rifle. There is also a final performance Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Rifle Middle School. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. Half of the proceeds from ticket sales will go back to Rifle Middle School and the music department.

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