Youth Development Programs

Believe in the transformative power of stories.

We offer two program models: one inside three juvenile detention centers in or near Chicago with 13- to 18-year-olds, and Changing Voices, which employs young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are on parole, probation or post-release. Through Changing Voices, the young people receive wraparound services and work with both case managers and artist educators for up to 30 hours a week at Chicago’s minimum wage.


Working with youth at all stages of court involvement.


Youth ages 13-18 who have been detained at the Cook County Temporary Junvenile Detention Center work year-round to write true stories, explore futures, and craft theatrical performances as the Temporary LockDown Ensemble. 


Youth ages 13-17 who are incarcerated at the Illinois Youth Center in Chicago and Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville work year-round to craft their performances as the Firewriters and Word Warriors ensembles (respectively). Many of them later join our post-release program.


Youth ages 18-24 in the community who have been involved with the justice system can work in the Changing Voices ensemble. It’s a safe space where they write, collaborate, create, reflect, and perform their stories. Audiences learn the needs, challenges, and joy, in our community. The youth get the rewarding, life-affirming experience of paid work that prepares them for future success.

More About Changing Voices

Artistic Overview

Participants use our award-winning story-writing curriculum to empower their voice and provide a way to share their experiences with the community. Through a rigorous process of producing fully-realized musicals, they are able to take back their identity, look beyond their histories and have the confidence to move forward in a positive way.

  1. Participants write their true stories.
  2. Together, these stories form a script.
  3. They put that script to music.
  4. They perform their original musicals for the community.



Clinical Overview

Our Changing Voices ensemble works extensively with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) on trauma-informed life and job skills curriculum designed to provide the tools and resources to create stability and opportunity for success beyond Storycatchers’ supported employment. Outcomes include:

  1. Financial literacy
  2. Improved communication and empathy 
  3. Ability to better manage emotions and develop positive coping skills
  4. Self-advocacy for themselves and the greater Chicago community
  5. Resources to provide stable housing, medical care and career-oriented job training

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 own their identity, reclaim their dignity and become empowered by their own resilience isn’t just a show—it’s an experience.


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