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Carbondale is known in the area and to local residents for its music scene. Whether it's raucous basement shows in a punk houses, touring and local acts combining to rock local venues, or major headliners coming through, the 'Dale is a city whose music scene often takes center stage. Within this scene, fans, artists, performers and promoters alike form a community that rallies together behind one another and the city itself. Now approaching its fifth year in operation, the Girls Rock Carbondale program continues to embolden and empower young girls of Carbondale to join in on the action.

For those unfamiliar, Girls Rock Carbondale is a summer program in which girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth are given the tools and guidance to learn an instrument, make music, and play a showcase at the end of the camp's duration. Last year, the Carbondale program expanded to include an after school program during both the fall and spring semesters. Following the success of that endeavor, the after school program is returning for its second year.

Kicking off this year's after school program is a CD release party from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Plaza Records, at 816 E. Main St. in Carbondale. Attendees will be able to purchase showcase CDs from both present and previous years' campers, priced around $7, with discounts available to those purchasing multiple discs. Performing during the kickoff party is previous camper/solo act, Cherry. Donations are always accepted, but the event itself is free.

“We're trying to give youth the confidence to learn new skills,” says GRC volunteer Carson Cates. “We're trying to empower youth.”

She, along with the Carbondale camp's founder, Jessica Lynn, oversee the program along with volunteers from the community and university. In addition to the camp and after school program, there is a yearly fundraiser open to women in the area to try the Girls Rock experience for themselves, called Rock Roulette.

Part of the empowerment Cates speaks of comes from the participant-led lesson planning in the after-school program.

“In the past we've done art workshops ... open mic ... digital media workshops ... we really want them (participants) to be able to tell us what they want to learn,” Cates says.

With focus ranging on a variety of issues from self-image and expression to social justice issues, youth attending the program have no shortage of opportunity for exploration and learning.

This year's after school program takes place on Tuesday afternoons at the Flyover Social Center, located at 214 N. Washington St. in Carbondale. Sessions run from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Dates for the fall semester are scheduled from Sept. 18 through Dec. 11 and the program is open to participants aged 12 to 18.

In the past, bus service has been available from both the middle and high school. At this time, transportation must be provided, though Cates says in the past they have been able to set up school bus drop-offs from both the middle and high school, and will be looking into doing so once more.

Spring semester hours have not yet been established, as the after school program runs in conjunction with area schools as well as the university, from which the largest portion of the program's volunteer base originates, but will run the duration of the spring semester with the exception of breaks.

Further information can be found at girlsrockcarbondale.com, as well as Facebook and Instagram under Girls Rock Carbondale. Additionally, anyone wishing to donate online can do so via the groups link: paypal.me/girlsrock618.

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