Music Buddies began as a Students Speak Up for Kids project. Through Students Speak Up for Kids, students are given the freedom to engage their imaginations, incorporate their talents and create projects that support awareness and advocacy for foster children.
Music Buddies was born as a direct result of co-founders Anden Toale and Jocelyn Spellman, both Wellington High School students, embracing those freedoms. “Student-led advocacy is where youthful exuberance and innovation collide, and result in the most creative and dynamic projects,” said Trish Zenczak, director of student engagement for Students Speak Up for Kids.
The program offers musical instruments and virtual lessons to foster children, with teen volunteers serving as instructors. Toale and Spellman, current Wellington High School band students, have been close friends since sixth grade. Both play the piano, while Toale also plays the flute and is learning how to play the guitar. Spellman plays the French horn but found her passion in percussion. Additionally, they share a deep sense of altruism, each expressing an adult-like awareness of the plight of those less fortunate. “My mom has been a guardian ad litem for years, so I know the importance of giving back, and so does Jocelyn,” Toale said.
Both give credit to his mother, Sandra Wells-Toale, for introducing them to Students Speak Up for Kids during early 2020 when COVID-19 protocols made teen volunteer opportunities scarce.
Averaging $100 per youth served to cover the costs of instruments and books, Toale and Spellman have become adept at sourcing previously used instruments and, when none are available, raising funds to provide the materials. The teens secured approximately $1,700 in donations from friends and family, and Spellman’s mother, Allison Spellman, helped them set up an awareness booth at the Twilight Green Market at Wellington.
Music Buddies currently has 15 active students and 10 instructors. Due to this dynamic duo’s diligence and commitment, Music Buddies has been adopted as an official Students Speak Up for Kids program. “It’s something Anden and I started ourselves, and it has grown pretty big in the little time it has been around,” Spellman said. “It has made me feel great to be able to make a change in my community, and it motivates me to further Music Buddies’ reach.”
Many studies have substantiated the benefits for both the giver and receiver from acts of kindness. “I had an opportunity to sit in on a session with Anden while he was teaching piano to a young girl. Between her lighting up and enjoying herself and watching Anden come alive and become so animated while he was teaching, I left the room in tears,” Wells-Toale said. “Music Buddies is a gift for both of them.”
As the teens enter their junior year, they and their parents have begun Music Buddies succession planning. Toale, the recipient of the Erin Fernandez Heart of the Band Award for his efforts to make an impact, envisions that he and Spellman will identify and mentor incoming first-year students then turn over the reins once they graduate.
Music Buddies is on a trajectory of success, and parent organization Speak Up for Kids of Palm Beach County is determined to help ensure that this youth-led advocacy program remains funded and available for the many vulnerable children for whom Music Buddies will serve as both an outlet and a potentially lifechanging opportunity. To find out how you can support Music Buddies, visit www.studentsspeakupforkidspbc.org.