- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - The owners of a North Main Street recording studio are offering an innovative summer program for youths that gives them experience in various factions of the entertainment industry while promoting a positive message.

SoNo Entertainment & Recording Studios co-owners Mellodye “Sweets” Ragin and John “Deyo” Ragin are offering a four-week program for youths ages 7 to 17 that incorporates aspects of video production, musical performance, acting, directing and editing.

The program, which is called Learning is Fun, Too Performing Arts Summer Session (LIFT PASS), will run from July 22 to Aug. 22, and registration costs $75 with an additional $35 to be paid weekly.

“We want to help save the kids,” said Mellodye Ragin. “We created this as an outreach program to deter idle time.”

Although SoNo Entertainment & Recording Studios moved to its current 56 North Main St. location three-and-a-half years ago, the Ragins have been running LIFT programs in one form or another for almost 15 years. The month-long programs are held year-round, and the programs cost about $5,000 to run. State and local agencies have booked slots in previous programs as a means of constructively assisting wayward youths.

The summer program is open to the general public and will give guidance and a general introduction to singing, producing, vocal recording, rapping, filming, acting and hosting.

“It’s about getting their feet wet in what they want to do in terms of artist development,” John Ragin said.

During the summer program, youths will be filming a documentary as well as an anti-gun violence commercial. The commercial, titled “One Bullet, Nine Lives,” aims to show the widespread effects of a single incident of gun violence. The documentary and the commercial will debut during a special screening at Bow Tie Cinemas, 64 North Main St., on Aug. 23. It will also be aired on the Ragins’ television program “Platform TV,” which is shown on public access channel 88 on Cablevision, prior to the start of school.

“When school starts, we will put the documentary on television,” said John Ragin. “So, they’re going be like little stars coming back to school.”

Ideally, the Ragins want to offer the LIFT program free of charge to youths during the summer, but they have been unable to secure grants to fund the program.

The program is searching for sponsors, and those who donate funds to LIFT will receive a variety of rewards. If a donor decides to fund the entire program, they will receive a television commercial produced by SoNo Entertainment & Recording Studios as well as an executive producer credit on the documentary that the LIFT students construct.

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Information from: The Hour, http://www.thehour.com