Being a good community citizen comes naturally to Nico Ridley. He helps friends in the hallways at school, he cleans up after himself in the cafeteria, and he always has a cheerful greeting for the cooks after breakfast.

Recently, the fourth grader at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest Elementary was invited to join The Collective, a special group at SOUNDS Academy, an organization his mom knows well since she used to be co-chair of the group’s board of directors.

This group of 50 hardworking students exemplify the character values of creativity, leadership, perseverance, resilience, and teamwork. They attend concerts, take lessons, play in a chamber ensemble, and take theory classes. They also perform throughout the Valley, impacting the lives of others while gaining a deeper understanding of their instrument and themselves.

Nico, who plays acoustic guitar, has already played at The Nash, a historical jazz club in downtown Phoenix, and over the holidays, he took his talent to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona’s Day Treatment for Adults center and the Early Learning Center for children.

“He has started his walk in philanthropy through music,” says Camille Ridley, who is Nico’s mom and vice president of marketing & development at United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona. “He does a short performance for the adults, but he also does one for the pre-K kids and it’s absolutely darling.”

Philanthropy aside, community plays a prominent role in other aspects of Nico’s life. In fact, it was an important factor in his enrollment at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest.

“They do a variety of events and activities that are very culturally diverse. The campus even has murals of historical figures from the black and melanin communities,” Camille says, explaining the decision she and Nico’s father, Nikolas Ridley, made to switch to the school. “I did not grow up in a diverse school system whatsoever, so knowing that is something they focus on was really important to us.”

The school looks for unique ways to celebrate and explore diversity. For example, recently, students gathered to observe the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March, which originates in the Pilgrim Rest parking lot. It made quite an impression on Nico, who got to give a TV interview about the experience.

When he’s not attending a cultural event or giving interviews, you might find Nico in the library. An avid reader, Nico is a big fan of graphic novels like Dogman and Five Nights at Freddy’s. He’s also involved in activities like the Student Wellness Activity Team.

Keeping fit is important if he wants to explore a career with the FBI (although he’s quick to mention he might change his mind and be a news reporter instead). In the meantime, he’ll be racking up the travel miles (his favorite place to visit is Colorado) and undoubtedly learning more guitar music to share with the community.