MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all know keeping kids in school is important, but sometimes you need to get creative to connect with them.

Urban Ventures has been helping kids break the cycle of poverty for 20 years. It’s an organization built around academics and mentorship, but one of its most successful programs uses the power of music.

Christian Baca loves music – and he loves Urban Ventures.

“Without it, I really wouldn’t know what I would be right now. I wouldn’t be in college doing this,” Baca said.

Baca learned his DJ skills in their state of the art recording studio and after using their services to help him through high school, he’s now a sophomore at Augsburg – majoring in Psychology.

“We want these kids to succeed academically and in life, and music is kind of the hook,” program director Mark-Peter Lundquist said.

Urban Ventures added the brightly painted Hub building in 2007 with athletics and other activities, but the music academy and recording studio were obvious additions, considering its south Minneapolis location.

“This is a neighborhood that produced a lot of great musicians: Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, all within 4 blocks of here,” Lundquist said.

In fact, an engineer who worked at Paisley Park helped set up the studio.

“The kids get exposure to both sides of the glass, what it’s like to twist the knobs, push the buttons, and capture performance. And they also get to see what it’s like to be put under pressure and have to be the one that’s recording,” Troy Groenke, recording studio director, said.

So far, Urban Ventures recorded four CDs. They raise money by renting the studio to professional musicians. But the heart is still reaching out to kids like Baca.

“The way you come and bond through mentors and the way they help walk through all those challenges — it’s amazing,” Baca said.

Urban Ventures will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a big event on Oct. 10.

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Frank Vascellaro