Youth Development Programs

Believe in the transformative power of stories.

For more than 30 years, Storycatchers has helped court-involved young people write their true stories to confront and heal the effects of trauma. Our youth work with us inside incarceration facilities, detention centers and post-release program sites to develop these stories into a fully-realized piece of musical theatre in which they perform for the community. 

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

After release, participants meet weekly with Storycatchers’ Licensed Social Worker to advance through a trauma-informed arts curriculum designed to provide the skills needed to be successful beyond Storycatchers’ supported employment, teaching them how to:

  1. Successfully apply and maintain a job.
  2. Effectively communicate and collaborate.
  3. Have the confidence to be self-advocates and leaders.
  4. Manage emotions and develop positive coping skills.

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, 32 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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