by Patrick Torres, Middle School and High School Program Director
On Monday night, our Executive Director, Karen LaShelle, and I gave a speech to the women of Impact Austin as the final step in our bid to receive funding for our newest program serving formerly incarcerated youth – The New Stages Youth Theatre Ensemble. As we prepared our speech, we realized the biggest challenge was going to be editing it to meet the five minute time limit allotted to us. There is simply so much to say about the program and how much we believe in it. We talked about:
- How theatre arts builds the social and emotional skills necessary for these youth as they re-enter their communities
- The lack of programming for them once they leave the system, and
- How we truly believe that this program will lower the rate of recidivism (currently, 75% of youth released will return to detention within 3 years at a cost of $62,000 per youth, per year).
But mostly, we talked about how this program will have a huge impact on the participants as we help them experience the power of their own voices as they learn how to write and produce an original play. However, that is only the start.
The true impact of the program will be when the youth become positive influences in their neighborhoods – as they tell their stories to their brothers and sisters, neighbors, and peers. They will take their past mistakes and use those experiences to help others make more positive choices. When this starts to happen, the impact of the program will be immeasurable, and that is our goal.
And, I am proud to let you know that the women of Impact Austin believed in our project as well. We received the grant! The New Stages Youth Theatre Ensemble will begin this fall. We cannot wait to introduce these youth to you. You will be inspired by their creativity and their stories. I hope you will follow this blog to keep up with our process during our first year with this exciting new ensemble.
P.S. My favorite camp memory comes from the summer before my 6th grade year when I won the egg toss. I even got a trophy.