Beginning in June 2014, Storycatchers will implement a pilot program to engage recently released juveniles in a creative exploration of the challenges they face when they return to their homes and communities.

For many years, Storycatchers Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director, Meade Palidofsky, has wanted to deliver a program specifically to youth re-entering their communities following detention or incarceration. “This is a dream come true for me and this company,” Palidofsky remarked recently. “These kids need a safe place to process the issues that formerly incarcerated youth face. They also need jobs, structure and a positive social circle. This program will provide all of those things.”

“An important component in all of the company’s programs is mentorship,” Palidofsky noted. “Initially, the teaching artists will serve as both teachers and mentors to the participants. Eventually the participants will become mentors and leaders to the young people for whom they perform; and, ultimately, that mentorship will extend to subsequent participants that join the program.”

The After-Care Ensemble, like the Teens Together Summer Touring Ensemble, will offer paid positions to all members. Each participant will sign a contract and enter into a supported employment environment with Storycatchers.

Storycatchers will work in partnership with the Community Violence Prevention Program of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation and Target Area Development Corporation’s Community Support Advisory Council to deliver the program, and with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice After-Care Specialists who are charged with supervising individual youth and their re-integration into the community. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority will fund the program through a Justice Assistance Grant.