PHOENIX — A morning of music, hitting a high note with fifth graders in west Phoenix. The lyrics are filled with life lessons from a guy who knows how tough these younger years can be.
"I am a thriving survivor of my own suicide attempt," said David Simmons. "March 31, 2009. I am 26-plus years sober."
Simmons is founder and creative director for the UBU Project. The non-profit organization provides arts integration and outreach for students of all ages. Right now, he says demand for his social-emotional learning program is skyrocketing.
"We talk about hope, resilience, self-compassion and empathy," said Simmons.
He also uses his own experiences and musical training to help students address difficult topics, including issues like substance abuse, suicide and bullying.
"They're already dealing with it. We're giving it a voice so they can discuss it in a healthy way," said Simmons. "It's not if things go wrong, it's when. Life isn't perfect and you need to be able to say, 'I need help.'"
Pendergast Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Lily DeBlieux is using grant money to support Simmons' 12-week residency in all 12 of her schools.
"The students discuss all these issues with him and put their feelings into words, and then they write a song based on their comments and their words," said Dr. DeBlieux.
Simmons has upcoming residencies at Buckeye Union and Cactus Shadows High Schools, and while different students may require different methods, his goal remains the same.
"I hope they each treat themselves just that much better," he said. "So that when they look in the mirror they say something kind about themselves, because then they will understand empathy for somebody else."