San Diego Music Education Program for At-Risk Youth Awarded $500,000

“For the first time in my life there was something I craved more than being outside in the streets,” Higerda said

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A San Diego music education program was awarded a half-million dollars to continue their efforts to mentor homeless youth and those in the juvenile justice system through the power of music.

San Diego’s David’s Harp Foundation was one of three non-profits to receive national recognition this year. The Lewis Prize for Music awarded the foundation $500,000 for using music as a force for inspiring positive social change.

The foundation mentors "system affected" and homeless youth, offering them a chance to succeed through music education, sound engineering and multimedia production.

“It allows us to bring someone on, to help people transition from juvenile hall back to the community,” Founder Brandon Steppe said. “To be able to be that spark that might keep them from going farther into the justice system as adults even."

Former student David Higerda, 21, said he stumbled upon the foundation when he was in high school.

“For the first time in my life there was something I craved more than being outside in the streets,” Higerda said.

He said he traded in his good grades for studio time and never looked back. Today, Higerda is an instructor and mentors teens in the San Diego County juvenile justice system.

The foundation also travels with a backpack full of recording equipment, allowing them to bring the music process out to community.

“This backpack is literally a way to transport hope into a facility where sometimes, young folks are hopeless," Higerda said.

Steppe said he applied for the grant in hopes of expanding the program, thinking it would be a long shot.

“This is a national grant with over 180 applicants, and we're just a small organization,” Steppe said.

The organization will receive $100,000 a year for the next five years.

David’s Harp Foundation is a non-profit organization and are still in need of donations to continue their mission here in San Diego.

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