EL PASO, Texas - From success in strings to success in school, young El Paso musicians have learned to thrive in the Tocando Music Project.
"It started out in the barrio for at-risk kids," explained Ruth Ellen Jacobson, the executive director of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. "Kids that would go out after school and not have any direction."
Out of 200 different non-profits around the county, the Tocando Music Project was one of five non-profits to receive the prestigious Civil Society Award from the Manhattan Institute.
The after-school music program has empowered nearly 300 Borderland children to excel in music and academics.
"It doesn't only help their music skills," Jacobson said. "We've seen the impact on their schoolwork. Music is math."
"Students begin to feel more empowered and more self-fulfilled," explained Alejandro Gonzalez Beltran. "That elevates their self-esteem and ultimately their academics."
The two-and-a-half hour after-school program kicked off six years ago in the Hart Elementary neighborhood, Jacobson explained. Students continue to play music as they advance to Guillen Middle School and Bowie High School. Recently, the program expanded to Tornillo.
"We're hoping to follow them all the way to UTEP," Jacobson said.
The Civil Society Awards will be held online this year. Jacobson told ABC-7 the $25,000 prize will help their program immensely.
"We're always challenged with buying basses and cellos and violins," Jacobson said. "They're very expensive. This is going to go a long way to help with that."