By Andrea Melgoza
Many of us have different ways to cope with our struggles.
Some draw, talk or work out. For some, music helps them cope. I know that helps me.
In our group, “Embracing Hearts Transition Group,” we thought it would be cool to have a session involving music, to show others that it can be a way for them to cope, too. Rosa- linda, our amazing group leader, was able to get Wes Geer from the band Korn to come, since he has an organization of his own called Rock to Recovery, where they use music as therapy. He brought all types of equipment: pianos, guitars and drums.
During the session, we went around the room, and we expressed one thing we want to let go of and one thing we want to attract more of, and from that we made a song. It was so much fun, even if none of us knew how to play or sing before. We were all able to release our concerns and hopes into some- thing enjoyable. It showed us a positive way to overcome hardships. We don’t always have to resort to drugs, violence, or negativity. Music was what helped Wes overcome his addiction to drugs, so he re-introduced it to others so they can also benefit.
My name is Andrea, better known as “Dre.” I am 18 years old from San Jose, Calif., but currently incarcerated at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility. I’ve been down since July 2017 and hopefully scheduled for release toward the end of 2019. I’ve been participating in pro- grams and groups that will help me get all I can out of my stay to become successful. Besides Embracing Hearts, I am also enrolled in the coding program, where we are being mentored by prisoners from San Quentin.
Embracing Hearts is always changing, which is the best part, because it remains entertaining. Rosalinda helps us with transitional housing, re-entry planning, community resources, finances, substance use, and leadership skills. She teaches us things that can be transferred to the outside world: how to be a leader, how to properly present ourselves in order to be able to obtain the help we need, how to use our voices to get to where we need to go.
Rosalinda wants to make sure that no matter where we go, we leave with resources, since leaving empty-handed can create stress and tempt us to go back to our old ways. When we first started, we filled out a form express- ing what we needed, such as contact information for our local DMVs, colleges, and medical offices. The following week, it was returned to us with an address and number for everything we marked off. A little deeper into the program, we said we wanted volunteers to come in and give us a class in financing, and our wish became reality. Rosalinda brought in people from Bank of America, who presented a lesson about budgeting, credit scores and distinguishing credit cards from debit cards—and how to use them responsibly.
Embracing Hearts Transition Group has helped influence many troubled young people, including me. I believe it should be more widespread and available to all incarcerated youth, children in foster care, runaways, homeless kids and anybody else seeking help. The dynamic of being able to bounce back and forth from business to fun is what I find most helpful. I am able to identify resources to take my first steps after release, while also being able to learn about myself, what I am capable of, and what I can give back to others.