SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — High school senior, Gabriel Escalante, will tell you first-hand that David's Harp Foundation, a non-profit music studio downtown, has changed his life since he was a freshman.
"I'm happy to be here. Without them, I'd probably be out on the streets wasting time," said Escalante.
ABC 10News highlighted the non-profit when it opened in 2018, our anchor Steve Atkinson presented them with a 10News Leadership Award. The recognition, well-earned with their mission to provide at-risk youth with state-of-the-art music equipment to cultivate their creative capabilities.
It was all motivated by an exchange, students can access the equipment as long as they kept their grades up.
"I went from a 1.86, now at a 3.75, just because I'm here every day," described Escalante.
But exactly one year ago when COVID-19 hit, it threw founder, Brandon Steppe, off-key.
"We didn't know what was going to happen. The doors closed and we were sad. Young people were messaging us," Steppe said.
Steppe also knew teens like Escalante relied on the studio as an outlet. He learned 92% of their students were missing school those first months of distance learning.
"We knew we had to respond. Education is core to our mission," says Steppe.
That's when a generous grant of over $50,000 came in from Cox Communications. It allowed Steppe to turn his music hub into a hybrid distance learning space to continue educating through the pandemic.
Steppe was thankful it ended on a high note because he said these kids hold a special place in his heart.
"To have that space, WiFi, desks, and adults with a trusted relationship was everything," Steppe said. "They represent the most potential of growth in our community and we know in a place like San Diego there's no reason young people can't thrive. We'll continue to shift because these young people are worth it, they're just worth it."