By Melinn Lanier

For the News-Gazette

The Osceola County School District has launched the Music Helps Heal program in collaboration with Live Music Tutor Inc. to aid incoming students from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in their recovery process.

The program is designed to help displaced students recover emotionally and socially through musical therapy.

It seeks to provide students with supplies, such as instruments, music stands or art materials.

For Poinciana High School junior Dayanlee Rivera, this is just what she needs.

Five months ago, Rivera left Río Grande in Puerto Rico and came to Kissimmee alone to live with her father.

“With everything that has happened to me, I think this program can help me relieve some stress,” Rivera said. “Perhaps it can get me to play more instruments other than the keyboard.”

The program has also caught the eye of Poinciana High School senior Brian Torres, who came to Kissimmee six months ago with his mother and grandmother from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico.

He has always had an interest in music, and is a part of his school’s chorus program.

“This program sounds really interesting since it involves music,” Torres said. “The guitar is one of my favorite instruments.”

To receive instruments or other supplies, students can have their school’s music department request them from the school district.

The program is sustained with financial and material donations.

“This is an amazing program,” said Pamela Haas, who oversees it and is one of the performing arts leaders in the School District. “It helps students by using the benefits of music and everyone speaks music. It’s the universal language.”

Virtual instruction is also offered by the online music organization Live Music Tutor where students can learn from bilingual teachers, giving them the opportunity to learn English, if they don’t know it.

These virtual lessons can help further instruction that students receive in class if they are a part of a school music program.

“Music in general is reported to help further student learning as well as achievement,” Haas said.

Students involved in music have an 11 percent higher chance of graduating than students who are not, according to the Center for Fine Arts Education.

Academic achievement is especially important to Rivera, who could have stayed in Puerto Rico but decided it was best for her as a student to leave.

While Torres also could have stayed in Puerto Rico, it was best for him to live in Osceola.

“The transition has been hard, but I’ll get through it with the help of music,” Torres said. “Music has always helped me in every situation I’ve been through.”

Financial donations can be made online on the Music Helps Heal website (www.musichelpsheal.org).

Physical donations, such as new or used instruments, can be dropped off at the school district office.