It is well documented that many of our young people in New Mexico are at high risk. There are a large number of young offenders who are caught in a revolving door of probation violations and detention. As repeat offenders, they are unable to break out of their negative and self-destructive cycles and patterns of behavior that keep them on the treadmill of the juvenile justice system and lead to their subsequent graduation into adult correctional facilities. The vast majority of these juvenile offenders are of Hispanic and Native American descent and come from economically disadvantaged circumstances. Local juvenile justice authorities are becoming increasingly aware of studies that conclude that music and the other arts can have profound and sometimes transformational impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional health of people in these settings.
The Youth with Promise program has been providing guitar, dance, and visual arts workshops to juvenile offenders in detention and on probation, to at-risk youth in shelters and residential treatment programs and to other underserved youth in the community. We have been empowering incarcerated youth by enabling them to discover their own creative potential through an immersion into the arts. Then, upon release from detention, they can continue these same workshops during the critical period when they are most at risk of becoming repeat offenders and vulnerable to drifting back into a negative lifestyle.
The program is designed to capture the artistic creativity of these troubled youngsters while they are incarcerated and then upon their release from detention to provide a continuation of the very same workshops. We are also impacting those enrolled in youth serving agencies and already on probation and other underserved youth who are not necessarily in trouble. The Youth With Promise program continues to grow and evolve as a unique collaboration between our organization and the key players within the juvenile justice system which facilitates the means to track, evaluate and provide incentives to insure steady attendance and maximize class size. We also endeavor to increase our communication with the families of these youth and encourage them to help insure their steady attendance. There are family members who are very supportive of the program and are assisting with transportation.
The continuity and stability of our Youth With Promise program is the key to its success. These young people depend on these ongoing workshops and expect us to be there for them every week. The current schedule of workshops includes five weekly art classes at the Santa Fe County Detention Center (males and females ages 12-18) and three weekly workshops for youth in our outside detention program.
Every Monday Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon at the Santa Fe Boys & Girls Club from 5:30 to 7 pm, the Youth With Promise program offers Chris Abeyta’s guitar workshop, a visual arts workshops led by Fine Arts for Children & Teens (FACT), and a hip-hop dance class with Rebecca Chornenky, This program is freely available for any young person in the community whether or not they need Community Service Credits. Please call 505-920-1700 for schedule info and directions.
We are witnessing astounding results with the longer-term students of our guitar class who in some cases have consistently attended classes for four years or more and are now becoming accomplished players, writing their own songs, performing in public and considering music as a career opportunity. More importantly, we have noticed a significant change in the attitude of these young people as a result of their empowerment and the means of creative expression that they have acquired.In a year's time at least 500 youth will have a significant experience in these creative expression workshops, while in detention or following their discharge. We expect 100 of these youth toThrough learning basic guitar they will not only gain the increased skill and self-esteem of mastering an instrument, but they will also learn songwriting and performance skills. In the dance worskhop, these young people learn through the popular musical genre of Hip-Hop. Rebecca insists that they get in touch with their own body language and learn to express themselves through the medium of dance. Young participants often display a remarkable transformation within the space of a one-hour session even within the confines and space of a correctional facility and feel empowered by learning a choreography that initially seemed insurmountable. Her only requirement is that they make an effort to learn, and not excuse themselves if a particular movement seems too difficult. In visual arts, they will gain skill and self-expression techniques working with watercolors, acrylic paints, pastels, charcoal, pen and ink and involved in self-portraits, sculpture and many other art forms including murals.
We are expecting and planning for increasing performance opportunities for our students. Our aftercare guitar and dance students have been performing in public venues at opening receptions, ceremonies and special events. Most recently they performed at the Capitol Rotunda at an opening of a two-month exhibition featuring art from the youth in our mural workshop, which was a successful collaboration with the SITE Santa Fe Young Curators and other youth serving agencies, including the Española Drug Court..
We have given away more than 50 guitars to those students who have excelled in the class. This will help to insure the continuity of their acquired skill as they return to the community.
By providing a vibrant series of workshops to both a youth population who are incarcerated and to those who have been released, we hope to effect a reduced recidivism rate. Furthermore, we strive to provide a safe educational environment for all underserved youth to express themselves artistically, through learning to play a musical instrument or through movement or through visual arts and to participate in public performances and exhibits which present their creative output to the larger Santa Fe Community and beyond.