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 16 young people between the ages of 17 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 30 hours a week at Chicago’s minimum wage.

The Show Goes On

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to provide programming to both incarcerated youth and our Changing Voices ensemble via a hybrid approach of remote and in-person programming.

See how we’ve stayed busy with our story-writing curriculum, new music, radio plays, Zoom chats and case management support.


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

Working with youth at all stages of court involvement.


Youth ages 13-17 who have been charged and detained at the co-ed Cook County Junvenile Detention Center work year-round to craft their performances as the Temporary LockDown Ensemble. They perform a full musical every year with members of the Fifth House Ensemble Orchestra. 


Youth ages 13-17 who have been charged and incarcerated at the all-boys’ Illinois Youth Center in Chicago and co-ed 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.


Each week, 16 youth ages 17-24 looking for a new direction come into work as the Changing Voices ensemble. It’s a safe space where they learn, collaborate, create, reflect, empower, persevere and perform their stories. Audiences are educated and inspired to make the changes our community needs. The youth get the rewarding, life-affirming experience of paid work that prepares them for future success.

More About Changing Voices

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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