After School Matters, a City of Chicago initiative, offers teens hands-on job training in the arts, sports, technology, communications, and science. Howard and Darlene Sandifer owners of Chicago West Community Music Center, are two participants working to make a difference in kids’ lives on Chicago’s West Side at the Garfield Park Golden Dome.

They began their training as part of the After School Matters program on Feb. 6 and concluded on April 12. The classes were composed of three parts-communications, the business of music, and video editing. The age range of students is 14-21 and each young person participates in the class they have the most interest in.

Part of their training included putting together a five-minute video presentation promotion. As Darlene noted, “They wrote their own script, did their own filming, did voice-overs and included still photos. This video was a wonderful piece of art and although it was only five minutes, it showed the depth of understanding the people were able to comprehend. This promotional video will now be used for future classes and educational training.”

Howard Sandifer, who is also a accomplished jazz musician, credited his friend and fellow musician, Michael Ross, and videographer Paul Holtz.

“Michael, Paul and Darlene are my foundation,” he said. “Working with young people can be quite tedious, and the four of us working together find that at the end of each class, the young people make us proud. I wish that all of America could come to the Golden Dome on Chicago’s West Side and witness the cultural renaissance we are achieving-like the days of the Harlem Renaissance, [when] a small group of artists came together and never gave up on their dreams.”

This recent class had a guest speaker from the National Association of Arts and Sciences, Lynbia Johnson, a vocal coach who critiqued the young people and offered valuable artistic insight. Another guest speaker was a young African-American entrepreneur named Darryl Duncan who owns GameBeats, a video game company. Duncan spoke to the young people, Howard said, about how they can use their musical talents with video games. He showed them a video game that he had done the music for. Young people were fascinated to learn that money can be made in the video games industry and music can be an integral part of that.

The culminating event on April 12 was a presentation the young people put together. Sharon Malone, a senior at Lincoln Park High School, has been one of Chicago West Community Center’s standout students. Another student, Henry Johnson, came to them as a very shy individual. It was a challenge just to get him to communicate. Now he has landed a part in director/actor Robert Townsend’s upcoming film, Of Boys and Men, starring veteran actresses Angela Bassett and Victoria Rowell.

After School Matters’ Chicago West Community Music Center classes will resume the first week of July.