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Joel plays a piano at Edenton United Methodist Church.
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Keys to Success | Fall 2013 Spotlight |

Fifteen-year-old Joel never had piano lessons and can’t read a note of sheet music, but he can command a crowded room when he sits down to a keyboard and plays from his heart. He has a powerful gift, and it’s apparent to everyone within earshot.

Joel never put any stock in his gift or saw its potential to change his life until a juvenile court judge sent him to Methodist Home for Children. He came to MHC in spring 2013 with no hopes for himself. He’d begun stealing from unlocked cars and homes—taking small electronics, prescription pills, cash—at age 12. He drank beer, then liquor, and smoked pot. He was put on probation once for breaking curfew, then for vandalism. He was locked up in detention facilities twice—a few months in Virginia and two weeks in North Carolina. His only aspiration was to get high.

Life was difficult and unpredictable for Joel before he came to MHC. But he can see now for the first time what others can see—his potential to shine and his possibilities for “a more optimistic life.”

Joel is managing his emotions by playing and composing music. “Every song has a different reason so every song has a different purpose,” he says. “It depends on what emotion I’m feeling. If it’s anger, I can make the song really fast. If it’s sadness, it’s just a way to express myself. It’s how I feel.”

He plans to earn a high school diploma, go to college and maybe translate his musical talent into a career: “I want to make music to inspire people to do stuff. To accomplish more.”