Cast your vote: Help Mercyhurst

Check out what happens when some of the Carpe Diem kids got a chance to try the violin.

Just when you thought the big races were over and the voting frenzy had passed, along comes another competition. But this one will be music to your ears as Mercyhurst University’s Carpe Diem Academy and the Greater Erie Youth Symphony Orchestra (GEYSO) compete for a $15,000 grant to provide free violin lessons for children in Erie’s inner-city.

Mercyhurst and the GEYSO are vying for a share of $60,000 in awards from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) through its UChoose Program. Modeled after the nationally recognized Pepsi Refresh Project, UChoose Grants give voters a chance to select how ECGRA invests its funds.

The winners are determined by popular vote, and every Erie County resident is invited to cast a ballot online. Voting is now under way and will continue through Wednesday, Dec. 12, at noon. You can only vote once during this period in each category ($5,000, $10,000 and $15,000 grants). Two grants will be awarded at each funding level with the winners to be announced Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

If funded, the “Carpe Diem Academy Violin Instruction” project will provide free violin instruction for K-2 pupils at Diehl, McKinley, Lincoln and Edison elementary schools through the extended-day program operated by Mercyhurst’s education department. Each pupil will receive lessons and their own violin to use after school. The classes teach discipline and self-control and help to improve grades and attitudes during school. By the end of the program, students will perform for the community.

The Carpe Diem Academy serves more than 350 children in the Erie City School District. According to the 2010 Reach and Risk Assessment report, the City of Erie is considered the highest at-risk municipality in the state for school failure. According to this research, children in Erie face uncertainty and have many challenges to overcome, including academic, physical, and social disparities. Research has shown a positive correlation between participation in music and student success in the classroom.

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