Francisco Lee, '15
First-year student combines love of music and community service
May 7, 2012
The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club had plenty of music equipment, but didn’t have a teacher until Francisco Lee, ’15, began volunteering for his Bonner Scholar community service requirement.
Lee, who is originally from the outskirts of Los Angeles, Calif., has had a lifelong interest in music. He has played the cello for 10 years, and is learning to play the electric bass, the drums, and the guitar. Lee also is part of a California-based band, Ensemble Memo, which has played in Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre and released a single on iTunes titled, “Love Letter.”
While an active musician today, Lee says his passion for music dates back to his childhood years, when he enrolled in an afterschool program. But the influence of his volunteer counselors didn’t just inspire Lee’s music — they also instilled a desire to serve as a model for other students.
“The volunteers who were part of the afterschool program had a huge impact on me,” Lee says. “I felt like I owed something to the community. I want to give back after all they gave me.”
In high school, Lee and a friend founded Healthy Attitudes Bring Impact Today (HABIT), an organization that hosts fun, drug-free alternative activities. HABIT recently was awarded 501K status, a nonprofit child care designation, and has spread to seven different high schools in California.
“We did everything from cancer walks to events at [the University of Southern California] to bowling,” Lee says. “I don’t drink, and wanted people to have an alternative way to have fun, free of substances.”
With his first year at the University of Richmond coming to a close, Lee is gearing up for his next endeavor combining music and an active life in the local community. He was selected as one of 25 students in his class to be a Bonner Scholar, committing to a four-year partnership with a community organization that matches his interest. This year, much of his work has involved tutoring students in math and science at the Boys and Girls Club, but he plans to offer formal music lessons by the beginning of next semester.
“The kids are really bubbly, and are excited about this chance to learn music,” Lee says. “They live in a very different environment. The crime rate in their area is high, and sometimes it’s shocking how they express themselves and talk about their home life.”
Lee believes that the music will not only give the children a way to express themselves in a healthy and unique manner, but hopes that it may also affect their futures in unexpected and positive ways.