Three years ago, music production took them off the streets of Homewood after school. On Saturday, it's taking them to Prague.
Seven Westinghouse High School students in the music group Profound Myndz have been invited to perform a song at the YMCA Europe Festival, an international teen leadership conference in the Czech Republic. The group is a product of the Lighthouse Program, an after-school arts project for teens that teaches leadership and career readiness.
For half of the 17- to 19-year-olds, the trip to the 10,000-person conference will include their first airplane ride. For all, it's their first time out of the U.S.
"Where we come from, there's not many opportunities to get out of the city, let alone out of the country," said Profound Myndz member Heze Kiah. "This is an honor and a blessing."
The song they plan to perform, "All In," is a dedication to the YMCA. It's one of dozens that the group has written and recorded in the three albums they produced through the Lighthouse Program. Most are about the everyday struggles of growing up in Homewood, said Forest Thrower, the group's oldest member.
"We want people to understand that getting to where we are today wasn't just a walk in the park," Forest said. "I write about not having a father figure or going to a high school where there's so much bullying and drugs."
Forest is the only member of the group who has graduated. In the fall, he'll be attending Cheyney University outside of Philadelphia, where he plans to study business, economics and music.
"Even before Lighthouse, I knew I wanted to be a famous hip-hop artist," Forest said. "Now, I've had those opportunities and I'll always keep working on my music."
The $35,400 needed to send the students to Prague for a week was funded by a number of community organizations and individuals, including the Heinz Endowments, PPG Foundation and the Julius Jones Scholarship Fund.
The last $4,300 needed for the trip was funded by Pirates Charities and center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates invited the seven students and Lighthouse Program director James Brown to PNC Park on Wednesday to walk on the field and see the game against the Cardinals.
Although Mr. McCutchen was scheduled to meet the students, he was unable to because of a family member's illness, a Pirates spokesperson said.
Mr. Brown said he's just happy to see how far the students of Profound Myndz have come. "They are at a whole new level of responsibility and maturity," he said.
Jessica Contrera: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1458. First Published August 1, 2013 4:00 AM