YAMA: Students in Yakima coming together to celebrate music - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

YAMA: Students in Yakima coming together to celebrate music

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YAKIMA, WA - Students in Yakima are strumming their way to a higher level of learning through an after school music program: YAMA, or "Yakima Music en Accion". 

"It's family," said Jennifer Moultine, Leadership Program Coordinator for YAMA. "It means courage, it means constantly reaching, it means striving for making it better every time we show up."

Students from 3rd all the way to 12th grade learned how to play instruments and become part of an orchestra.

"My favorite part is hanging out with my friends and playing," said Fernando Serrano, a student in YAMA. "I really enjoy it."

Students also learn life lessons, and much more. 

"The biggest take-away is a growth mindset for our students so that they can always improve, no matter how hard something is," said Alex Pualani, conductor and teacher. 

YAMA started five years ago with only eleven students, but today they are over 70 strong, and more than ten schools participate.

Stephanie Lin Hsu is the founder.

"It's really easy for people to think that I'm the face of YAMA, because I'm one of the first people who did start it," admitted Hsu. "But really I am standing behind a huge group of people."

To perfect their craft, students practice music two hours a day, five times a week. They also teach one another.

"We have a great leadership program, so there is a group of kids from Davis High School that come to Garfield Elementary and work with the younger kids as student teachers," said Jenny Humphrey, teaching artist with YAMA.

During concerts, students are joined by their teachers...and as of this year, a choir.

They are all working as one, bettering themselves as well as Yakima.

"They put each other first," said Moultine, "and every student, if they've been in YAMA for longer than a few months, begins to call it family, and to me that's really special."

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