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Growing Up Behind the Shield: Reggion’s Journey

“How are you today, Ms. Ernie?” Reggion says while reminding his two younger siblings to buckle up as they are picked up by Sgt. Ernie Simms of Berry Street Corps on their way to a corps activity.

“He is an amazing kid”, says Sgt. Ernie Simms. She states that “Reggion is a quiet, but true leader, choosing to lead by example rather than by words, and as a Junior Soldier, acting as the conscience of his youth program at Berry Street, letting the other children know when they are not living up to the standards and principles of Christian living according to what’s expected.”

Reggion has been attending the Red Shield Kids Club since he was 6 years old, has been a member of the Berry Street Corps since its founding in 2008, and is a founding member of the Youth Band “Red Shield”, which started in the fall of 2015 thanks to a grant from the CMA Foundation.

It is here, in the “Red Shield”, that a 12 year old boy that had never held an instrument went from knowing nothing to being able to play three instruments within a year and a half. According to Angela McCrary, “Reggion is an incredible kid, one of the diamonds in the rough who truly blossomed within the music program. He has a natural affinity, and ear, for music that he did not know he possessed. I had to keep telling him he could do it in the very beginning when he wanted to give up on learning the drum set, within a month he had learned to keep a basic beat rhythm.” At that point, his cousin was learning the bass guitar, and Reggion was assisting him in learning the music, and ended up teaching himself how to play the bass guitar as well.

Reggion is one of seven children in his family, and strives to remain a positive role model and influence to his two younger siblings, even though he did not have this himself, as some of his older siblings have either dropped out of school or had various issues within the legal system. Add to this, his family has just, within the last two weeks, secured housing after two years of moving from various hotels, shelters, and family members couches while trying to overcome homelessness. He is currently on summer break, and looking to gain employment, even though he is only 14 years old, in order to help his family as they rebuild their home in their new apartment. During these trying times, it is truly inspirational that Reggion remains as steady and focused as he does on his school work, music, and church activities.

Reggion has never known a life that did not involve The Salvation Army, as many of his siblings and family, have been involved with various programs and services for the last 20 years at the Magness Potter Community Center. He has found shelter from a turbulent life Behind the Shield, and role models to provide a glimpse of what a successful future can be for him in people like Carlos Lowe, Director of the Red Shield Kids Club (RSKC), Angela McCrary, Director of the RSKC Music Program, and Sgts. Steve and Ernie Simms, Corps Officers for the Berry St. Corps.

Reggion will be aging out of the “Red Shield” band this year, but he is keeping his love of music going by joining his schools concert band, where he was asked to play the saxophone this past year, and attending the International Education Foundation Music Camp this summer. He also secured a gig playing the drums at a local church for a few months. This newly fostered love of music is something that will follow him throughout his life, and is a true skill on which he can capitalize in the future in terms of employment, community outreach, and spreading the word of Jesus.