Safe Space offers SE Qns. kids a new beat on life

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Teddi Belefonti shows Borough President Helen Marshall how create a song using Safe Space's new mixing stations. Photo by Ivan Pereira

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By Ivan Pereira

December 15, 2011

The staff at Safe Space in Jamaica has always tried to come up with innovative ways to help the hundreds of disadvantaged youth who walk through their doors, and a new program they launched has been hitting all the right notes since its inception.

The nonprofit invited the borough president to its new media arts center at its office, at 89-74 162nd St. last Thursday and showed off how its students have been using its state-of-the-art equipment and training to express themselves.

Safe Space’s president, Christine Molnar, said the idea behind the center came after getting feedback from the hundreds of youth members, many of whom are homeless or are in need of support, who wanted a music program.

“They tell us their interests and we try to meet their needs,” she said.

Instead of creating a place where they could learn the clarinet or piano, Molnar said they wanted to teach the teens to make the music that they would like to hear. The studio has eight digital mixing stations, similar to the ones that are used by today’s top hip-hop artists and producers, according to Greg Norman, Safe Space’s acting director of youth services.

Since its opening in the summer, the students have been working on various projects, including a music video about growing up.

Teddy Belefonti, the program’s instructor, said the students do not have any problems learning how to use the professional equipment and coming up with original beats because they are so used to the music.

“It’s not the complex Mozart stuff, so it’s not that hard to get into,” he said.

Marshall, who gave $520,000 to help create the studio, got a first-hand look at the space and saw the students’ presentation during her visit. She was impressed with the nonprofit’s work over the years and continued to pledge more support.

“Here the children have a fresh, clean place to work,” she said.

Safe Space was created in 1919 as an agency to protect Queens children and over the decades began to expand its services. Today, the nonprofit, which has other offices in Richmond Hill and Far Rockaway, offers counseling, college and GED preparation, arts classes and homeless and runaway services free of charge.

Two years ago, the nonprofit moved its main office back to Jamaica after working out of a Manhattan space, and since its return the group has attracted hundreds of new members, according to Molnar.

“We try to give that resource to as many kids as we can,” she said.

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