As the new Executive Director of Storycatchers Theatre, I am excited to announce the company’s plan to grow Changing Voices, our post-release youth employment project, to a statewide program. Our goal is to lay the foundation for a national post-release youth employment movement combating structural racism and generational poverty.


Chicago Beyond, a new, privately held organization that encourages and supports strategies to help young people from Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods, has invested $900,000 in Storycatchers with its first-ever Go Innovate award.  With this funding base, coupled with our supportive long-term donors, Storycatchers will grow the Changing Voices program from one cohort to three in the next two years.  Chicago Beyond’s investment allows Storycatchers to partner with the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs to effectively test the impact of the Changing Voices program, providing measurable data on the program’s impact on recidivism and long-term employment.  Storycatchers anticipates hiring approximately 90-100 recently released young people as core participants over the two year period.

Since its inception in 1984, Storycatchers Theatre has served thousands of young people in juvenile justice facilities through innovative programs that use the performing arts to promote change in the following areas: personal growth and self-knowledge; conflict resolution, peer relationships, and healthier family interactions; and increased awareness of community issues and resources. These young people, once released, often face complex challenges and temptations on a daily basis, as they go back to uncertain and risk-driven environments.

With the creation of the Changing Voices program, Storycatchers is able to offer a bridge from incarceration to post-release that will help increase the rate of successful reentry for these young people. Along with employment, Changing Voices offers the opportunity to develop the capacity to become engaged, productive citizens who are able to envision and pursue successful futures for themselves. Having multiple interactions with court-involved youth in the juvenile justice facilities as well as in a post-release program is a critical part of Storycatchers unique model providing wrap-around, long-term support.

We are grateful for the Chicago Beyond investment. We realize that this financial commitment is meant to encourage other long-term investments in order to sustain the program’s growth. It is imperative that we manage this unique opportunity with effective marketing and outreach in order to engage all of you, our supporters in our journey ahead.

Thank you for being a part of Storycatchers and supporting our youth at this critical juncture.


Priya Shah