SWAN: Learn About Fig Lancaster’s 2019 Social Mission Partner

SWAN is impacting children with the gift of music.

Out of many submissions and much deliberation, we’re excited to announce that SWAN: Scaling Walls A Note At A Time is our Fig Lancaster 2019 Social Mission Partner!

At Fig, we believe in the power of a community that works together to identify needs and find solutions—one that creates connections and is passionate about helping its neighbors. Because of this, the Social Mission Partner Program began. Each year Fig partners with a nonprofit organization working to transform the community. The nonprofit gets a page in each quarterly Fig Lancaster issue in 2019, plus digital promotion on FigLancaster.com and Fig Lancaster social media—all free of cost.

Last year, in 2018, we partnered with Bench Mark Program and we were grateful to help uplift their important mission. We are excited to now partner with SWAN: Scaling Walls A Note At A Time for 2019.

We had a Q&A with Diana Vuolo, Founder & Executive Director at SWAN, who filled us in on some powerful stats and information regarding their impactful mission to serve children in the area. Read below to get the details!

Fig: What is the need that SWAN, as a Social Mission Partner, is trying to meet?

Diana: On any given day in Lancaster, it is estimated that 4,600 children have a parent or parents in prison. Sadly, when a parent goes to prison, their children often suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally. They may experience the trauma of separation and abandonment, as well as homelessness, and continued or deepening poverty. This often results in behavioral issues and substandard academic performance. These children are often invisible, sometimes by choice. They suffer in silence, due to the stigma that surrounds them and the absence of relevant supports.

Fig: How is SWAN addressing their need?

Diana: SWAN stands for “Scaling Walls a Note at a Time”. We are a support group for children affected by parental incarceration and provide free music lessons, ensemble training, performance opportunities, and mentoring. Our goal is to empower children by helping them to use their talents to succeed.

Fig: Why music? 

Diana: Research underscores the importance of music on academics as it improves focus, sharpens reasoning skills, and raises IQ levels. Music helps us physically as it relieves stress. It also increases our emotional intelligence as we become in tune with our emotions and learn to express them creatively. Socially, we become more aware. Music trains us to listen to others around us. We also learn to present ourselves in performance and to work as a team when we are in an ensemble. The disciplines that are strengthened such as courage, determination, creativity, and perseverance are skills that will benefit our students throughout their lives.

Fig: How does SWAN operate?

Diana: SWAN is not a music school; we have no building. Our teachers work within the Lancaster schools and teach during the school day and after school hours. The School District of Lancaster regards SWAN as a critically needed intervention. We also teach at the Youth Intervention Center. We are currently serving 160 children weekly.

Fig: What is SWAN’s impact?

Diana: Poverty, homelessness, and abandonment make children feel worthless, powerless, and hopeless but we know that each one has been given talents specifically designed to help them succeed and to serve others. SWAN is finding those talents in the children and we are developing them. This, in turn, is giving them hope and a sense of dignity and purpose. It is changing the way they look at themselves and the way others perceive them. When we change the trajectory of one child’s life, we impact generations.

Fig: What is the goal of SWAN in 2019 and beyond?

Diana: In 2018 SWAN served 200 children in 10 elementary schools, 1 middle school as well as in The Youth Intervention Center. In 2019, as more of our students progress into middle school, we would like to serve them there and increase our overall enrollment. Our hope is that there would be multiplied branches of SWAN in many communities.

Fig: What do you find inspiring about the Lancaster community?

Diana: During the annual “Extraordinary Give Campaign”, the hundreds of nonprofits represented and the community’s multi-million dollar support for those missions is a display of compassion that is hard to match. It demonstrates the care and concern that is woven into the fabric of Lancaster’s culture.

Fig: What inspired you to start SWAN?

Diana: My husband, Chuck, is a pastor who also counsels criminal offenders. Through his involvement with these families, I saw the depression and trauma that impacts the children. I asked the question, “How can I help?”. As a violin performer, music teacher of 40 years, and a mother whose nest recently became empty, I transitioned my calling to help these children. I wanted them to know that they did not have to be defined by their present circumstances. An additional factor in my founding of SWAN is that music enabled me to scale the walls that I personally faced as a child.

Children participating in music lessons. 

"SWAN stands for 'Scaling Walls a Note at a Time'. We are a support group for children affected by parental incarceration and provide free music lessons, ensemble training, performance opportunities, and mentoring. Our goal is to empower children by helping them to use their talents to succeed."

LEFT: Diana Vuolo, Founder & Executive Director at SWAN. RIGHT: A child enjoying drum lessons. 

Find out more on the website, see how you can help, and explore the incredible impact this organization is making in the Lancaster community.

Follow FigLancaster.com and check out the Fig Lancaster print magazine for more information, interviews, and features on this great program throughout the rest of 2019.

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