This Memorial Day weekend I travelled to the Bay Area in California to meet up with some of the young people I had the pleasure of working with when I was Director of The MYC Youth Center in San Rafael, now closed. Two of them were graduating, one with a BA in Criminal Justice and the other with an MA in Social Work, both reaching the highest educational level in their families. I cried tears of joy for their strength and determination to get to this point, as they each crossed the stage filled with pride and hope for their futures.
After leaving California and returning to New York, I stayed in touch with a handful of teens and staff who made The MYC their second home while I was there. Each of their stories are lived examples of the importance of positive and structured youth development experiences outside of school and family.
While I mourn the fact that the youth center no longer exists and that my current youth carnival band project is taking longer to get going, I celebrate the triumphs that came out of the time it did exist; am grateful for all that I learned from my experience there; and the lasting friendships that have been made. I continue to use what I learned to help develop the Teen Programs department at ArtsConnection and will do, so I am sure, in the future.
Thank you Aaron, Anne, Astrid, Brandon, Collin, Daniel, David, Dametrius, Edgar, Fernando, Gavin, Griffe, Hooman, Janet, Jennifer, Jessica, John, Kaleb, Kasha, Kelly, Kisai, Kmelou, Marie, Mimi, Peter, Rachelle, Ron, Sandra, Shannon, Susan, Tej, Torman…
One of my favorite articles on youth development, the arts and out of school time:
Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts During the Nonschool Hours; Shirley Brice Heath (with Adelma Roach) in Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning