Author: Brian Boros, R.I.S.E. Board Member

Guitars Over Guns’ Chicago R.I.S.E. program is where mentorship and music meet. These mentors created magic with our high school students who were engaged in a special Columbia College campus tour, while mentors facilitated an interactive experience. Columbia College is an exceptional school for the arts and has renowned music education and arts programs. 

On March 7th, 15 students, 5 mentors, and 4 members of Guitars Over Guns’ Chicago R.I.S.E. board participated in a day of events with Columbia College for Admitted Students Day. Although our high school students are not admitted yet, this was an exciting chance to share what that day could look like for them. With its location at the center of Chicago’s downtown loop, nearly across the street from the Art Institutes of Chicago and our famous Grant Park, it was easy to spend a memorable day at Columbia College. The intersection of personal and professional growth is why mentoring matters. 

These mentors care about the lives of our Chicago youth, the students that aspire for a college education. For many young people – maybe even yourself or someone in your life – going to college may not have seemed like the right path. This field trip was an opportunity for our students to picture themselves in a college environment and envision college as one of many possible paths toward success.

Students and mentors seated in an auditorium at Columbia College

The photo above shows our students as they reflect on their future.

Here is what two members from our R.I.S.E. leadership board had to say:

Linda Sun says, “The most unique aspect of my experience was seeing how both the mentors and students interacted with the Columbia College amenities. I’ve been on many college tours but this was the first time I’ve stepped into places like anechoic chambers to experience true silence or audio production labs to witness how sound effects are recorded. As members of Guitars Over Guns, all of us have varying levels of connection with music. It was fantastic to see the amazement and excitement on people’s faces as they explored the spaces that serve as the starting point of so much media and creativity.”

Elizabeth Winter says, “I was thrilled to be a part of Guitars Over Guns’ Columbia College visit. It was a joy to watch our students and mentors connect with one another through the shared goal of exploring new opportunities for our talented students on a beautiful college campus in the heart of our great city. Columbia College welcomed us with open arms and made us feel right at home. Their audio engineering and acoustics department was inspiring, and the tour was comprehensive and fascinating – with the added bonus of having one of our own music mentors show us around! Our students were engaged and eager to learn about the unique opportunities offered at Columbia College. Our day concluded with a luncheon where our students and mentors were able to debrief about their experiences from the day and learn more about one another. We look forward to many more meaningful and formative experiences for our students and mentors alike as these relationships grow.”

College can be among the richest time spent in a young professional’s route to embark on their careers. That rich, uplifting and emotional feeling is what we wanted to capture visiting Columbia College. As mentors, this is our opportunity to share life skills in our students’ developing lives. How many of you went to college? How many of you wish you went? Those of you who went, do you remember how you made it there? Or who impacted you most to follow through, apply to your favorite universities, accept the acceptance letter, and make it to your first day of class? For some of us, this decision is much easier, more apparent, and guided by more resources to support and motivate us.

For those of us who don’t or didn’t have the access to resources that enable young students to make that transformational leap, the guidance of a mentor through life’s obstacles can be crucial on the path to college and career.

At campus events throughout the day, the students received an in-person view of how the admissions process works, the resources the university can offer, what types of financial services the university can help with, a closer look at different departments and how they operate, and best of all, the dream of becoming a scholar. 

Guitars Over Guns’ Chicago R.I.S.E. program doubled up on a visit to Columbia by collaborating with the school on a day to bring their students and mentors together on Columbia’s Admitted  Student day, both to learn about the university and bring the mentors and students to an environment filled with potential, music and art, the idea of achieving a college degree, and a dialogue of goals in reaching that opportunity.  Thank you to those who joined us and thank you to Columbia College Chicago for the accommodations and lunch for the students – we sincerely appreciated it. 

Thank you again to mentors, staff, and students for joining us and making the day extra special. And thank you Columbia College for the hospitality and giving us the chance to make this experience possible. It will be exciting to find more opportunities like this to collaborate with universities and help guide our students on a path to success.