“Music is the thing that can make the difference,” said Amber Weldon-Stephens, who has made a career of using music to help special-needs students in Fulton County.
Clayton County was the only school district in Georgia that offered music therapy when Weldon-Stephens, a 22-year-old University of Georgia graduate, finished her internship in 1990. She hoped to replicate in Fulton what existed in Clayton: two music therapists and an intern. In 1991, Fulton approved funding to start a music therapy program with Weldon-Stephens at the helm.
For the first five years of the program, she was Fulton’s only music therapist, traveling to 13 schools a week. Today, Fulton has 15 music therapists and four interns, making it the largest music therapy program in the nation. About 1,500 students across 73 Fulton schools participate in music therapy each week.
Co-workers at Weldon-Stephens’ home school, Sweet Apple Elementary, call her “the little engine that could.” Since founding Fulton’s program, she has become the program director, internship director and president-elect of the American Music Therapy Association. On Monday nights, she teaches at Kennesaw State University. She has twice been her school’s Teacher of the Year and still works with students.
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