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'Music Really Helps Me': Arts Therapy Camp Returns To Parkland During Winter Break

Music therapist Bree Gordon, right, leads Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in a drum circle during a free arts therapy workshop in Parkland in late December.
Jessica Bakeman
Music therapist Bree Gordon, right, leads Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in a drum circle during a free arts therapy workshop in Parkland in late December.

Camp Shine — a free arts therapy program that began over the summer for survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting — was back in session in Parkland last week.

Some of the new security measures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this year have been scary for senior Julia Solski.

"We have different changes in school now. That's really hard for me," said Solski, 19, who has Down syndrome.

There are more police officers and security cameras now, she said, and the schools lost three assistant principals who were transferred after being accused of making mistakes in how they handled last year's deadly shooting there.

"It's like I'm not that safe anymore," Solski said.

Singing makes her feel better.

"Music really helps me," she said.

Solski got some help during winter break at a free arts therapy event for students affected by last year's deadly shooting at the Parkland high school. About a dozen students spent one or two days playing djembe and tubano drums and tambourines with a music therapist. In visual art therapy, they used paint, markers and glitter to make masks portraying how they've changed over the past year.

The day-long workshops at the recreation center in Pine Trails Park were shorter versions of Camp Shine, a multi-week program held this past summer. Camp Shine was run by Shine M.S.D., a nonprofit founded by student survivors that aims to help community members heal through making art.

Bree Gordon, a music therapist based in Palm Beach County, worked with Camp Shine during three two-week sessions over the summer and returned to help lead the winter break workshops on Dec. 27 and 28. Some of the same students participated in both the summer camp and the recent sessions, and Gordon said she sees in them now a greater willingness and ability to open up and share.

"It happens almost instantly," Gordon said, snapping her fingers, "whereas before it really took a while to build that rapport. All those seeds that we planted over the summer — I see the fruit of that."

Mike Catapano, 16, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas, said he made friends at Camp Shine during the summer that continued to be a support system for him when school started again.

"Camp Shine is like a second family to me," Catapano said. "They're all really loving and caring, and I just feel like this is a really good, happy place for me to go to when I'm feeling down."

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.
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