Photo courtesy of Mateo Toro.

Founder and CEO of the RIZE Program, Edna Garcia-Dipini, knows first hand how the arts can fundamentally change lives.

A vocalist since the age of four and a hip-hop devotee, Garcia-Dipini was born and raised in Brooklyn, and attended the prestigious Highschool of the Performing Arts in New York.

“The Arts saved my life,” she said, noting that she was born to teenage parents and raised by her grandparents.

Garcia-Dipini shared that her love of the arts was fostered at a young age by a teacher at her school, who took her under his wing when she was a reserved, frightened kindergartener. This teacher–who also led the school’s Glee Club–inspired her to focus on singing, and showed her the power that the arts have to transform young lives.

Photo courtesy of Mateo Toro.

​After becoming a mother herself, Garcia-Dipini eventually relocated to Berks County. “When I moved to Berks County, I wasn’t doing anything artistic,” she said, noting that she was working for a state representative at the time.

She was approached by the executive director of the Hispanic Center of Reading and Berks County, who said that she would be a great candidate for their leadership program–and thus the RIZE Program was eventually born.

​Garcia-Dipini shared that RIZE is a youth arts non-profit organization that fosters the arts to promote a healthy lifestyle, creating art programs and policy initiatives that support families and youth.

RIZE programs and activities focus on delinquency prevention among Latinx and African American youth participants, as well as larger issues of criminal and social justice reform.

“Our mission is to unite our culturally diverse communities by strengthening families for social change…to create art programs and policy initiatives that support families and youth,” said Garcia-Dipini.

“We also aim to create paid positions for local artists. Our vision and goal is to give our community the avenue to express themselves artistically, and to provide positive reinforcement to the community at-large.”

​RIZE has a number of community outreach programs, including the RIZE Hip Hop Lab, the Live to Read Campaign, RIZE Above Bars, the Solidarity Project, and Dance on the Street, a community festival.

​Garcia-Dipini shared that instead of complaining, she wanted to be a solution to the hardships facing youth today. “[We need to] work together to combat the social ills that are happening,” she said. “The timing is now.”

​For more information about the RIZE Program visit http://rizeprogram.org/. To find out how to donate, become an art educator with RIZE, or to volunteer your time, you can contact Garcia-Dipini directly at edna.rize@gmail.com.

This article is also available in: Español (Spanish)