Students helping students: 16-year-olds raise thousands to help elementary chorus get to Carnegie Hall

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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 2, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)-- Two local 16-year-olds put together an event to raise money for children at a south-side elementary school.

A showcase on Monday night at the Young Actors Theater aimed to help the Hartsfield Choir Program make it to New York City. The program was invited to perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall on March 1st. However, the school is part of the federal Title 1 program, which means it has a large concentration of low-income students and it is supported with federal funds.

"Not only going to change them, but it's going to change our community," said chorus director Arnekua Jackson, who founded the program ten years ago. "The kids are excited."

The event was organized by Mary Stafford and Lainie Henry, who both are involved with youth arts programs in Tallahassee and who felt bonded with the students, despite never having met them.

"I've been singing and performing my whole life," said Henry. "I really feel a connection with these kids and this opportunity performing at such a large event space as Carnegie Hall is just an incredible opportunity."

"I have always loved the arts and musical theater in general," said Stafford. "I've been to New York and it's amazing. It's awesome, especially for people who love the arts."

The girls planned a grassroots showcase of entertainment, with several youth acts including the Hartsfield Chorus. Dozens of people showed up and it was nearly standing room only. The event raised $5,160, leaving the chorus with only $17,000 more to raise, said Mary's mother Susan Stafford, who helped to oversee the event.

If you would like to donate, you can do so through the Leon County Schools Foundation here.