A message from Lee Peters, Director of Arts Education Programs

Welcome to a new year at Storycatchers Theatre! As a new member of the team, I figure this is a perfect time to introduce myself and remind you all of what we’re best at – fostering moments of creative expression, autonomy, patience, and love.

Consider these your first doses of optimism for 2023!


The Power of Expression

Toward the end of a Temporary Lockdown session at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, the staff allowed youth to “go off script” and share some of the rhymes they had been creating on their own. This prompt immediately transformed the session into a makeshift rap concert! From this moment, I learned that one of the greatest things about our programs is the space we give to young people to express themselves, feel joy, and find pride in their own creativity and interests.

Valuing Moments of Autonomy

Recently at Firewriters, our program at the Illinois Youth Center of Chicago, I had the opportunity to witness some of the music creation sessions led by the music director. Watching young men bring in songs they had prepared outside of sessions, changing things on the fly, and fine-tuning their songs during the recording process was truly inspiring. Offering options for these talented young men to autonomously explore their creativity taught me how crucial it is to show youth the power in their voices.

Practicing Patience

I observed an amazing moment with Word Warriors, our program at the Youth Center in Warrenville, when a youth recorded a new song in one of the final sessions of the year. They were reluctant to sing around other participants, but Storycatchers staff brilliantly coached this young person using patience, humor, and gentle but persistent encouragement to get them to share their voice. Building trust with these young people has incredible power and enables us to challenge them to step outside their comfort zones. The growth we see through this process gives us reasons for optimism every day.

A Love for Our Mission

In my time at Changing Voices, our post-release program, I’m continuously reminded of the importance of considering multiple ways of engaging with young people. These youth possess and flex burgeoning leadership skills to help shape workshops in different ways that work better for them. Watching that process and their growth has helped me grow as well. I’ve learned that we must listen to and empower the next generation more and expand our definitions of what participation looks like. I’m optimistic that there’s power in the journey and destination of storytelling.

These reasons for optimism in my short time at Storycatchers Theatre have meant a lot to me. They’ve kept me motivated to show up for the youth we serve and curious about new areas of support we can explore. I hope they’ve inspired you as well. If they have, please consider donating to Storycatchers Theatre today. Thank you and stay tuned for more stories, more experiences, and more reasons for optimism from our crew!