Wilde Lake senior hits all the right chords with instrument drive

A high school senior on her way to earning the highest award in Girl Scouts is hoping her efforts will be music to the ears of children in need.

Christina Potis, 17, a student at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, organized the inaugural musical instrument collection drive at the school, on Saturday, to benefit the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's ORCHKids, a program that provides musical education, mentorship and instruments to city youth.

The service project, called "Tunes for Tomorrow," is the last step Potis needs to take in achieving the Girl Scout Gold Award, equivalent of the rank of Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts.

Few young women achieve the Gold Award, said Julia Dougherty, Potis' troop leader for the past 12 years. Fewer than 100 Girl Scouts are up for the award in the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

"Retention for girls at the high school level is low," said Dougherty, leader of Troop 1072. "There's so many other competing factors in high school, extra-curriculars, homework, sports ... but this is an opportunity they don't have in a school setting all the time. You have a small group, everyone becomes friends and you work together to achieve goals you couldn't otherwise."

To achieve the Gold Award, a scout must complete a service project that will benefit a group outside the troop, Dougherty said. Potis' choice for a group, Dougherty said, represents a great need in the community many may not realize.

"Music is so important and instruments are so expensive," Dougherty said. "There are so many people with instruments sitting in their homes they can't wait to donate and this is a chance to do that."

Potis said the BSO has an on-going collection drive for ORCHKids, but she figured a separate drive couldn't hurt.

"This brings additional light to the need for musical instruments," she said. "There's always a need."

Music is something near and dear to Potis' heart; she's been around music for as long as she can remember, she said. Her father plays guitar, and that was the first instrument she learned. She's also been singing since attending Thunder Hill Elementary School in Columbia. She joined the choir at Dunloggin Middle School and continued that in high school, where she's been a member of Wilde Lake's choir all four years.

"I've always had good luck with music, ever since elementary school," Potis said. "In high school, the choir's like a super-community. We're family."

Potis said she hoped the drive, which she's doing with the help of the Wilde Lake members of the Tri-M Honor Society, a music honors organization, will continue after she graduates.

"For the Gold Award, I had to create something sustainable, and I think that's definitely what this is," Potis said. "This is an ideal project."

The importance music has in Potis' life is immeasurable, she said, for many reasons. Among those reasons is the nature of music itself: relaxing and challenging at the same time, she said.

"(Music) makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself," she said. "As a group, you're all working together, all reaching toward the same thing. You can always grow it in. It can always be a challenge, and you can always do something to improve yourself. It's an ongoing thing you can always strive to get better at."

Since music is something Potis has always had the good fortune to have in her life, she said she wanted to find a way to spread that fortune.

"It's an important part of life, and it's so beneficial," she said. "Especially in areas like Baltimore, where there's more risk of losing your kids to something that isn't good for them, or them losing out on their potential. It's important to get them involved in a safe, therapeutic activity. Music's a safe place."

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