Category Archives: Youth Voice

Armory’s Art High Provides High-End Instruction and Life Skills

With a firm belief that “arts and arts education are essential components of a well-rounded human experience and a civil community,” the Armory Center for the Arts launched in 2006 an ambitious program called Art High. Its goal: Make out-of-school arts instruction more accessible to the young people of Pasadena, California by providing free year-round classes and mentorship opportunities at parks, schools, and community centers.

With 11 years of effective programming, the Art High initiative has paid off. The Armory, with its fortified network of community partnerships, has been able to provide visual and media arts education, arts experiences, and mentorships to more than 700 middle and high school-aged teens. By means of its six satellite sites, the center reaches young people from the lower-income neighborhoods of Northwest Pasadena and the Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and delivers vital programming to incarcerated youth at the city’s juvenile detention facilities. In recognition of its excellent after-school work, the program received the 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Art High Apprentices and Mentors at Work. Art High, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardee. Photos: Armory Center for the Arts.

The Armory’s outreach entails a breadth and depth of high-quality instruction. Trained teaching artists provide teens with more than 60 courses a year, totaling over 1,000 hours of drawing, digital photography, screen-printing, letterpress, stop-motion animation, and aerosol (graffiti) art—just to name a few. In addition, they receive wraparound services including academic support, mentoring, and career guidance. Participants also have ample opportunities to exhibit their own work publicly.

Because of Art High, youth from the greater Los Angeles area are not only receiving artistic instruction, but are gaining transferable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and expression. They are positioned for summer employment and provided support services in the form of workforce development and financial literacy training.

“People around the Armory have taught me new values in what life offers and have helped better prepare me for the challenges ahead.” Arnolfo Reyes, former Arts High participant

“Before I started coming here, I didn’t know I was going to college or none of that, but now there’s a chance I could go…I want to be a photographer someday. The Armory’s given me the opportunities to make that happen.” Dalon Poole, former Armory Teen Apprentice

Art High Participant Making a Screen Print. Art High, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardee. Photos: Armory Center for the Arts.

By offering its participants unique opportunities for artist mentorship, technical instruction, and employment skills through paid and volunteer internships, the center keeps youth focused and deeply involved. So much so that Art High teens return time and time again, committed to furthering their education and giving back to their Armory community.

Native Youth Thrive in Tribal Youth Ambassadors Program

Jayden Lim, age 15, speaks on behalf of 2016 NAHYP Awardee, Tribal Youth Ambassadors. Photo credit: Steven E. Purcell.

We are Indian and we are proud. We still sing. We still laugh. We still dream. We still stand. – Jayden Lim

At the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award’s White House ceremony, which honors programs that are national models in the field of creative youth development, Jayden Lim was the youth speaker on behalf of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.

Jayden, a young woman from Santa Rosa, CA, shared the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama. With her personal story, Jayden shared the power of the humanities to transform Native youth’s lives:

I am a Pomo Indian from Northern California. In some ways, I am your average 15 year old. I am a sophomore in high school, I love music, and I am currently learning how to drive. In some ways, I am very different from the other students at my school. I run my own DJ business and I work to educate others about California tribal histories and cultures.

With an average graduation rate of 54.5%, Santa Rosa’s Native youth are unlikely to graduate from high school or college. Many are also challenged by high rates of depression and suicide. The Museum’s Tribal Youth Ambassadors program works to combat these challenges by bringing tribal youth together to address their own needs. Ever since engaging these young people after school and in the summer, the Museum has seen 100% of its Tribal Youth Ambassadors program participants graduate—sometimes, with honors.

In this multi-disciplinary program, students aged 9–24 receive humanities lessons, plus Native language, cultural, and multimedia arts training after school, two days a week, for two to four hours. Students learn leadership, public speaking, and presentation skills as well as how to serve as docents.

Students like Jayden gain numerous benefits from the Museum’s positive learning environments. By studying oral history and practicing storytelling, they gain a greater awareness and appreciation of their heritage; they learn their role in promoting intercultural understanding among Native and non-Native communities; they find their voices to express and share their rich history and culture and go out into their communities ready to tackle tribal stereotypes and misinformation.

For Jayden, participation in the Tribal Youth Ambassadors program has empowered her. She feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to dispel misinformation about Native Americans. She advocates for her community, and in her own words, “demonstrates not only how native people survive but how we thrive.”

Amplify Grants Awarded to 15 Youth-Led Community Projects

Youth Leaders with Elevated Thought in Lawrence, MAThis year, the Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded 15 Amplify grants totaling $15,000 to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding. Amplify shines a spotlight on the contributions these young people make to their communities by supporting them directly in creating and publicly sharing their work.

See the Amplify projects supported in 2017 and 2016.

Drumming & Myth: Healing Urban Youth Through Alchemy

Still from FINDING THE GOLD WITHIN, by Karina EpperleinAlchemy is a nonprofit organization in Akron, OH that provides a safe environment and sense of community to assist in the development of urban adolescents through the telling, discussion, and interpretation of mythological stories and fairy tales told to the beat of an African drum.

Since 2003, Alchemy has worked with over 2,000 male youth in its creative youth development programs. In 2012, they received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities.

“Myths speak to archetypal situations, universal dilemmas,” said Kwame Scruggs, Executive Director of Alchemy, Inc. And, embedded in myths are guides to behavior that he believes can help counter some of the destructive images of masculinity that have taken root in some aspects of urban culture.

“For the seven years that I have been in Alchemy, It has helped me grow from a boy to a man. The mythological stories we read and hear you can relate to everyday life. It helps you become a better decision maker to help you through hard times. It also connects you with other black males where I learn about their problems and we are able to help each other overcome obstacles. Alchemy is a great group of loyalty and brotherhood.” – Marlon, Alchemy participant

“I come, I listen, I share or say what I gotta say. I feel more open, because nothing leaves the circle. I’m something like a son, well, we all can say we are. But with no father figure in my life it seems like I had one when I come here and a lot of brothers so it taught me how to bond with people. So I come because it’s Alchemy. Love Kwame like a father.” – Dionte, Alchemy participant

Although personal development, rather than academic achievement, is the program’s chief goal, Alchemy’s techniques are also promoting academic success. Twenty-four of 28 members of its “first class” graduated from high school and went on to college. (And, of those 24 who enrolled in college, nine Alchemy alums have already graduated with their college degrees with 6 more alum on track to graduate by June 2018.)

In Finding the Gold Within, a feature-length documentary by Karina Epperlein, follow six young African American men, alumni of Alchemy’s program, as they enter college, determined to redefine society’s images and low expectations of them:

Youth Voice Pops Up with Express Yourself’s Parasols

Installation of hand-painted parasols in Beverly, MA

Amplify, MCC’s grant program created to support youth led and designed projects, is starting to bear fruit, the first of which was the wonderful Pop-Up Parasol exhibit by Youth Mentor Rachel at Express Yourself (EXYO).

Originally conceived as a smaller project involving 20 hand-painted parasols to be on public display at Cumming Center, the idea took hold and blossomed due to the leadership of Rachel, an EXYO mentor, who empowered by the Amplify grant took it upon herself to fundraise and manage the entire project, recruiting peers and participants from EXYO and eventually more than tripling the original project scope. The parasols were displayed in a 70 foot long installation which opened on April 26, bringing  color to a cold spring afternoon in Beverly.

Read the full blog post.

MCC Launches “Amplify” to Fund 12 Youth-Led Community Projects

We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent
visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient
society, on the streets where we live, in our schools.

– Maxine Greene

Today the MCC introduces Amplify Youth Voices; a new initiative to raise the voices of young people whose creative expression is driving positive change in communities across the state.

Amplify grants provide support for projects designed and executed by young people in programs that are currently receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding. A total of $11,440 was awarded with each grantee receiving up to $1,000.

See the funding list.