By Katie Sobiech
Warning: When the Music Stops (WMS) is not your average High School assembly! This local movement is more like a dance party/concert/motivational speech tour all wrapped into one. One power-packed hour includes a deejay, dancing, powerful message, great music, talent and fun, creating the perfect confection to catch the attention of today’s youth.
The Garfield High School auditorium was full of students talking and finding their seats…unaware of the experience that lay ahead of them.
And they were pleasantly surprised.
By the end of it all, crowds of students gathered around the stage to talk to and even get autographs from the WMS crew.
Some were in tears, due to the message hitting so close to home.
WMS has found a way to reach teens where they’re at by speaking a powerful message through an avenue they are familiar with and enjoy.
Divided into 3 sections, WMS addresses what they call “Dream Killers”, including Apathy, Fear and Lack of Encouragement, and Inner Brokenness.
Topics woven throughout the hour include bullying, eating disorders, searching for identity, divorce, violence, drug use and other issues relatable to teens.
Bringing a Fresh Hope
WMS offers hope, encouragement and a light in the midst of the pain and darkness many teens face these days; being surrounded by so many pressures and often problems at home.
“One of the main messages we have through the program is the value of encouragement in another person’s life and speaking encouragement, (such as) you matter to me – I believe in you,” Brandon Kightlinger, Founder of Generation Akron, said.
One of the most powerful ways they reach this generation is through their stories and the way they deliver the message.
What really matters in life? Whose life have you impacted today? These are the questions they conjure in the minds of teens who are just trying to get through class.
Generation Akron is a cultural movement and umbrella over WMS and other initiatives such as God.Bar, Awakening and Summit at the Summit.
“We wanted to find a way to connect with students in the Akron area and give them positive messages – something that could change their life,” Kightlinger said.
A school-based program offers them the opportunity to connect with more students than ever before.
“I believe within 6 weeks of the ideas’ inception we had already been booked up at I think 5 high schools for 10 showings of the program,” Kightlinger shared.
Some of the schools they’ve been to include Springfield, Kenmore, East, Garfield, Manchester and St. Vincent St. Mary’s.
The Perfect Combination
WMS consists of 6 or so young adults whose eclectic mix of talents and gifts comes together in a way they could not have anticipated.
Bryson Davis, who shares his story, met Brandon at a church gathering.
“That’s what the Body (of Christ) does – they connect,” Davis said, “It’s rare to meet people where your heart beats in rhythm- where you’re right on board with them.”
“All of the giftings of our team fuse so well together to really impact youth. If they’re not getting the message through speaking they might get it through hip hop. If they’re not getting it through there, they might get it through the music that’s playing. There are so many different components that hit home with them,” Kightlinger said.
WMS has a story for everyone, speaking to teens in a way that a textbook never could.
Everyone Has a Story
Each member of WMS has a story, combined with a talent that brings something new to the group – allowing students of all kinds to relate.
Kightlinger shares his past, which wasn’t always the brightest.
His life was shaken when his father, a Pastor, decided to leave his family.
“I showed up at school every day and no longer had it all together. I acted like I had it all together, like everything was fine, but I was dying on the inside,” Kightlinger shared.
But, he says, “To my amazement- the thing that I thought was going to kill me, didn’t kill me. It didn’t destroy me. It didn’t ruin me. But it actually gave me a story to share with other people.”
Purpose in Pain
Finding purpose in painful experiences is a major theme of WMS, helping teens to cope with whatever troubles they are currently facing.
Davis also shared a very touching story.
“My story is about not having a father, and my mother dying in a car accident. I’m trying to encourage those who I’m sure have similar stories. Students that maybe don’t have a father, or they’re adopted or orphaned. That doesn’t have to define you,” Davis said.
Joey Switzer, a.k.a. DJ Zion, also has a story relatable to teens.
“I had a pretty rough youth,” Switzer said, reflecting back, “I’ve been in the streets – in and out – so my heart really goes out to the youth and just trying to help the