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Fall 2022 Community Impact Scholarship Winner

Anden Everett Toale

In Anden’s essay, readers learn of his love of music and compassion for others. He is a dedicated musician and a member of his high school jazz band. Anden has invested a great amount of his time and effort to create resources for kids who may not have access to the same resources as him. Anden’s essay exemplifies his leadership qualities as well as his thoughtfulness.

Anden Everett Toale

Read Anden's Essay:

How did my life go from loving sports to loving music? You’re about to find out. This is the story of how I ended up where I am today: an avid musician, member of my high school marching band, and co-founder of a music-based community outreach organization.

When I was 8 years old I was involved in a traumatic accident that left me unable to play the sports I had once enjoyed. Looking for another outlet, I found music. I began to play the keyboard, then flute, and eventually progressed into the marching band and jazz band when I started high school. I felt like I once again belonged through the connection of music.

From there, I continued to improve my musical abilities, working my way up to the highest bands, and eventually taking on multiple leadership roles within the band. I was also awarded the Erin Fernandez “Heart of the Band” memorial award, and conducted and composed multiple pieces for concert and marching band.

I was dedicated to and truly loved band, but I began to wonder if there was any way I could give back and offer the same experiences I have had with music. The way I have made an impact is through Music Buddies. Music Buddies is a program within the larger organization Speak Up for Kids, which is a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness and advocating for foster children in Palm Beach County. This is a program that I co-founded to provide free instruments and music lessons to foster children, taught by high school student volunteers.

During the inception phase of Music Buddies, my role was to determine how to make the program feasible and functional. This included fundraising to purchase instruments and sheet music, educating the foster guardian community about the program, and recruiting volunteers to teach the lessons. My current role is to recruit and manage the high school volunteers and ensure lessons are meaningful and fun with their foster children “matches.” I check in with the volunteers to discuss progress and address any needs or concerns. I communicate regularly with the Board of Directors at Speak Up for Kids and continuously think of ways to improve and grow. I also have matches of my own and have been teaching two foster children on the keyboard and flute for well over a year.

Music Buddies is significant to me because often the foundation of happiness and self-worth stems from the feeling of belonging. Music provided me with this foundation. I found an escape from everyday worries through my instrument and found solace sharing this joy with others. Foster children experience so much unrest and change in their lives. I feel providing them with a safe escape, through learning music, will facilitate this for them as well. The program provides foster children with the same opportunity, and hopefully, sense of belonging, that I have experienced making music.

Through continuous fundraising and recruiting, most recently working with other local high schools and foster agencies we are able to ensure all children interested in lessons have the opportunity to join the Music Buddies program. To date the program has matched and taught over 30 foster children with student instructors! I believe that every child who is in, or has gone through, the program is better off for having been introduced to the gift of music. My hope is that the pleasure derived from making music is something they can carry with them throughout their lives.

It is so important to volunteer within your community because volunteering locally can have a much greater impact around you, and from what I have seen, local volunteering often gets disregarded, since it is much smaller. When volunteering locally, you can also create a lot more meaningful connections and see the effect of your hard work pay off more. Take Students Speak Up For Kids, the organization I volunteer for, for example. It is a locally based organization, in the area of West Palm Beach, Florida. While the organization itself isn’t all that big, the impact that has been made is massive. Volunteering for this organization within my community has made an impact on many people’s lives within my community, and I’m able to see the effects of my volunteering.

The efforts that make the most significant difference in a community are personal efforts. General efforts can go a long way and have a much greater impact, but personal efforts are the ones that provide the most rewarding outcomes. Personal efforts create much deeper and more profound impacts on people, even if it is a smaller number of people. For me personally, running Music Buddies and seeing how much I can brighten up a child’s day by teaching them how to play an instrument has been one of the most rewarding experiences, and I know how much it has meant to the children and those around them. I feel that small, more personal efforts can help someone out a lot more, and result in a butterfly effect, creating a larger impact within a community.

The time I have dedicated to community service has helped me to develop my own skills and grow as an individual in various ways, the most prominent being my leadership, management, and social skills. Through running Music Buddies, I have learned a lot about how to be in charge of a group of people, ensuring everyone is doing what they are supposed to, and consistently managing the flow of people joining and leaving. I’ve also developed more of my leadership skills, stepping up and taking charge within Music Buddies and Students Speak Up For Kids, to the point where I have been recognized locally by the news, along with nationally through Scholastic Magazine. My time with Students Speak Up For Kids and running Music Buddies has taught me a lot and given me a lot of valuable skills for later in life, as well as growing as a person and becoming more compassionate and considerate.

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