Court Involved Youth
Storycatchers serves youth at all stages of court involvement, from probation or detention to incarceration to post-release employment. The company began working with detained and incarcerated youth living in juvenile justice facilities in Illinois in 1990. These gender-specific, trauma-informed programs provide an outlet for court-involved young people to experience success through the process of writing and performing original dramatic and musical material inspired by their personal experiences. Since Storycatchers’ expansion into post-release employment in 2014, the company has coordinated with allies in aftercare to prepare young people to navigate reentry successfully as they develop the capacity to become peer leaders and agents of positive change.
Participants in all programs write, share and discuss personal stories and collaborate to identify common themes and challenges. Storycatchers teaching artists and volunteer mentors create a safe, structured, supportive environment as they work with youth participants to write, develop and produce an original musical play.
Storycatchers requires participants to adhere to collectively agreed-upon expectations and set specific goals that help them to practice positive interactions with peers, facility staff and families. Professional teaching artists help the young people develop their singing and performance skills and perform alongside them in showcases for audiences of fellow residents, facility staff, family members and the general community. All Storycatchers teaching artists receive training in the company’s award-winning methodology. In addition, the company partners with trauma therapy experts to prepare all teaching staff to incorporate a trauma-informed approach into Storycatchers’ work with these adolescents, who almost uniformly exhibit symptoms and behaviors associated with complex trauma.
The company uses its award-winning process to guide court-involved young people in an exploration of the root causes and long-term consequences of their behaviors. The President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities honored Storycatchers with a National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award for its work with court-involved youth in 2013, and in 2016, Storycatchers’ post-release employment program Changing Voices was honored with one of the first GO Innovate Awards from Chicago Beyond.