YMCA—Members of Profound Myndz with their coordinator Phillip Thompson (center) in Prague.

Seven local teenagers from the musical group Profound Myndz have done something most musicians can only dream of. Last month they performed in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 people, in the Czech Republic, more than 4,000 miles from home.

“I was actually very nervous because I’ve never performed before such a big crowd before,” said Shawn Moore. “But I eventually got over my stage fright and just rocked it out with my group.”

The group performed at the YMCA Europe Youth Festival, a weeklong event, from Aug.4-10, that brought together young people from around the world. The festival was designed to help youth develop their leadership skills and think more critically about the world they live in on a local, national and global scale.

“There were a lot of important lessons. It was definitely a life changing opportunity,” said Hezekiah Moore. “Being 17 and African-American in my community, you don’t normally get these kinds of opportunities.”


LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT—Students from Westinghouse High School visited Prague.

The members of Profound Myndz are students in the Homewood-Brushton YMCA’s Lighthouse Project, an afterschool program for Westinghouse High School students. The program uses the arts to help youth build leadership skills and prepare for college and careers. They shared the story of their trip at the YMCA on Sept. 5

“It’s impossible to condense the experiences we had when we were over there. It’s an experience I may never have again, as well as the kids. It was a blessing,” said Phillip Thompson, coordinator of the Lighthouse Project. “They’ve learned to be more tolerant, patience, kindness. It’s something that on the surface might not seem important to job preparation but it is.”

As part of the United States delegation, the students met youth from YMCAs in nearly 40 countries. Throughout the week they took part in a variety of workshops where they were introduced to different cultures through activities such as Hungarian bracelet making, Brazilian martial arts, and a German game called “Jugger.”

“It was a little frustrating at first because a lot of the kids didn’t speak English, but we made it through,” said Rodney Smitherman. “We connected and ended up talking about things like music, fashion, regular kid stuff.”

The members of Profound Myyndz agreed their favorite part of the trip was performing on the international festival’s main stage and having peers ask for their autographs afterward. They also enjoyed trading souvenirs with youth from other countries and sightseeing throughout Prague.

What they won’t miss are the food and living conditions. Several members of the group found it difficult adjusting to foreign cuisine and having to pay to use a public restroom.

“I didn’t try any of the food,” said Dayvon Staten.

“I learned to appreciate things a little more,” said Alicia Collins. “You shouldn’t take anything for granted.”

The trip’s only other blemish occurred when a storm caused one of their shows to be cancelled. But that didn’t stop the Westinghouse teens. They took their act to the streets and continued to perform on the trolley ride back to their hotel.

“We took the opportunity to perform on our own on the sidewalk because people said that was pretty common,” said Forest Thrower. “It was a pretty fun night.”     

The trip was funded with the help of the Pittsburgh Pirates Charities and other community donors.


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