Our stories. In our own words.

Storycatchers works with youth in the juvenile justice system. We help them tell their stories through musical theatre. By moving beyond their histories, they transform their own lives, communities, and people like you who are ready to listen. 

75% – 93% of incarcerated youth have experienced severe trauma.

Research shows traumatic stress changes the structure of the brain, hard-wiring it to protect against danger. This causes youth to live in “survival mode” – making it extremely hard for them to develop positive coping mechanisms. Incarceration is not the solution.

Youth incarceration can be profoundly harmful. And expensive.

Statistics show that youth incarcerated for more than a year are…

  • Almost 3x more likely to have physical limitations
  • Over 4x more likely to have depressive symptoms
  • Over 2x more likely to have suicidal thoughts as adults
  • FY19 figures for Illinois project the cost of housing in a juvenile justice facility for one year at $187,765 per youth

We have a better idea.

  • We meet young people where they are in the system: incarcerated, detained or post-release.
  • They confront their trauma by writing and sharing their story. Stories that are the hardest to tell and weigh the most.
  • Through our arts development process, the young people develop emotionally, socially and creatively.
  • Through our case management support, they learn critical life and job skills.
  • Through performance, they find their voice. Retake their identity. Find hope and purpose.

Our impact: Court-involved youth leave us ready for success outside of the system. Ready for education, employment, re-connecting with their family. Ready for positive, meaningful change.

“Stories have the power to create empathy within us, and over time, people begin to see the world through the eyes of the ones they have opposed.”

Jacob Clinkscales
Storycatchers Teaching Artist
Storycatchers Youth writing program

Our Impact.

It’s not just our impact on participants, but also the greater community. Our young people perform for judges and civic influencers. Every year, hundreds of children watch and discuss the stories performed in our musicals. See the stats. Read about the change. See a success story that will give you hope.


Our Programs.

Right now, approximately 400 young people involved with the juvenile justice system are collaborating with each other and professional teaching artists to weave a fully-realized musical narrative. Learn more about our cohorts and how they use our award-winning writing curriculum to help prepare them for re-entry into society.

See Our Programs

Storycatchers Youth writing program

Our shows are free. Our programs are not.

75% of our funding comes from people like you. See how you can make a much needed gift.

Get Involved

There’s plenty that needs to be done. We need skilled volunteers for a variety of tasks. If you have between 2 and 200 hours to give, click here to learn more about how you can support our mission and our youth.

Get Involved

“Without Storycatchers, I would be homeless, in trouble, looking for a job, and stressed out. With Storycatchers, I am a leader, mentor, and outstanding person. I am free.” 

Ty’teanna W.
Changing Voices Participant

Performances that you will never forget.

Their stories. In their own words. Crafted with nuance, action, hope and heart-wrenching circumstance. Watching a young person recover their identity, take back their dignity and become empowered by their own resilience isn’t just a show—it’s an experience.


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