Future Successors, a local nonprofit focused on college and career readiness, brought 20 students to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for the first time Dec. 4.

The special trip is part of the organization’s efforts to bring awareness and opportunities to Title I high school students.

Future Successors is led by Niki Watson, a Georgia native who worked for the U.S. State Department under the late Colin Powell. Her organization received a $10,000 grant from VELA Education Fund to support this program.

Future Successors aims to “put a dent in the rate of violence and poverty” and encourage healthy living for teens ages 12 through 17. The nonprofit provides tutoring, summer enrichments programs, career programs and more for Atlanta youth. Future Successors regularly takes students on college trips and hosts meetings between students and area business leaders. It also collects firearms off the streets and, in collaboration with local artists, turns guns into wearable jewelry as well as artwork.

“Most of our scholars are aware of gun violence’s impact on the community,” Watson said. “Our very first event was a gun buy back and we were able to collect over 100 useless firearms and put a call to action for artists to make artwork out of them.”

The organization says trips like the one to ASO are particularly important as Atlanta grapples with its rising murder rate. According to data released by the Atlanta Police Department, as of Dec. 4, Atlanta has had 149 murders this year compared to 2020’s year-to-date rate of 142. The murder rate rose 5% from 2020 to 2021 and 60% from 2019 to 2021.

Exposing children to elements that are positive eye openers, Watson said, will help them see opportunity in everything they do. The students were even able to meet ASO’s principal bassoonist Andrew Brady.

“One of our pillars in Future Successors is “Explore” where we encourage our scholars to do something different and to see all the things the world has to offer you,” Watson said. “I was extremely satisfied when they wanted to see something different. They wanted to be there. That’s when I knew they were developing a mindset that will lead them to be successful, they will discover new things and create opportunities to add to their success story. “Change the mindset, change the narrative.”

When asked by Watson to give one word about their experience at ASO, the students described the evening as ”calm, different, classical, relaxing.”

Fore more information on Future Successors and its mission, visit futuresuccessors.org.

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