Metro Youth marches to the beat of many drums

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Metro Youth Program nears the end of its program at Apollo Elementary Thursday, March 17.

If you thought you heard thunder in the area of Apollo Elementary this (Thursday, March 17) afternoon, it wasn't a  funky storm with the sun shining. It was the Metropolitan Youth Program's drum line and drill team.

The group from Rock Island is also known as the Metro Youth Drill team.

Apollo Principal Bill Fleuette said all students, pre-K through fourth, were going to be in the school's gym to see the program. He said pre-K students usually do not attend.

With a bass drum booming with the power of a cannon firing and the snare drums adding to the rhythm, the drill team performed a number of intricate steps to the delight of the Apollo students.

Before the assembly began, Dora Manley of Rock Island, one of the women who carries the banner for the group, explained the family nature of Metro.

"I've been with the kids about 28 years," Manley said. "We're going on 30 years (as a group.) I started with them when my kids were in and then my grandkids came in."

One of those grandchildren, ZorDae Reed of Killeen, Texas, helped Grandma carry the banner Thursday. ZorDae's mother, Thlisa Reed, agreed with her mother's sentiments.

"It's a family affair," she said.

ZorDae wants to come back to Illinois this summer and be part of the group, which also marches in a number of parades. Thilsa Reed said she was part of Metro when she was about 13. Her sister and her sister's husband met while in Metro and have now been married 18 years, she said.

"It keeps the kids off the street and they enjoy it," Thilsa Reed said. "A lot of us come right back to what we know is safe at home."

She said what once was known as "The Marching 100" saw its membership decline, but it is now back up to about 75, according to Manley. They said some members from Iowa and Moline were not at Apollo, as they are not yet on spring break.

Members range in age from 6 to 20 and wear the red and yellow of Rock Island High School. They are required to keep their grades up and tutoring is offered through the program. The group practices twice a week. Funding is mostly from donations and local grants.

As the program ended, Metro members left a side door leading outside to loud cheers, then the drill team returned and took a group bow. Drummers then walked back in and let a lucky few students see what they could do on the drums.

How important is this group to Thilsa?

"I drove here," she said of the trip from Killeen, which is adjacent to Fort Hood. "That's 17 hours."

She'll drive back to the Lone Star State, another 17 hours, with some fresh Metro memories.