As our first year of the New Stages: Arts Empowerment for Juvenile Offenders program comes to a close there are many successes to celebrate. 66 teens have completed the program and have shown dramatic improvement in communication skills, self-esteem, team-work, literacy and they have developed positive relationships with their peers, staff and their own family members.
The girls I worked with over the summer created a piece called I Love You/ Te Amo. The performance was a series of monologues and poems that were performed for the girls’ parents. The girls’ intention in creating this piece was to have their parents understand where they were coming from so they could feel closer to their parents and in turn ask them for help when they need it. The girls explored reasons they had run away. They spoke about being pressured into drugs and, in turn, they would pressure others. The girls expressed their anger and frustration at their fathers being gone, or their family making them upset. In the end, the girls acknowledge their deep love of their mothers. Their monologues and poems reach out to their moms. The youth expressed that they were sorry for any trouble they had put their moms through, and that even though they didn’t always show it, they respected their moms.
It was really impressive to see the girls gather the courage to not only choose the topic, write and memorize the words, but then to actually perform this in front of their parents. I think the girls were extremely brave and it was a privilege to be able to see the reactions of the parents during and after the show. There were many tears and hugs among families. After the performance the girls met with their families for their weekly meeting. They discussed some of the things that came up during the play. I did not attend that portion of the evening, but I asked the girls if they had achieved their goal of forging a better connection with the parents. Once of the girls quite excitedly said yes. She said after the meeting her mother hugged her for a long time and told her that she did not want her to run away again. She asked her daughter what she could do to help her.
We recently received notice that New Stages will be funded for this upcoming year. I am excited to see what we are able to create, how many conversations we can start, how much confidence we can build, and how many connections we can make.
Middle and High School Program Director