Our intervention, an arts-based, community embedded, resilience building program for teenagers aimed to help participants develop, or further develop their self-identity through telling the story of who they are, and build a sense of belonging to place and community through the mentorship of the local artists and the support of community leaders.
The program was based of the Your Life Your Story curriculum, but was customized for the community focused on for this project: the Mid-North and Northwest area neighborhoods of Indianapolis, Indiana. It was run as a six-week program, with arts workshops, meeting twice a week. A total of 12 teenage participants attended. Four artist mentors led the majority of the sessions. In the workshops, teens learned about the following characteristics of design thinking: reflexivity, storytelling, art & visualization, and used art mediums designed to appeal to the teens and local artists.
Implementation and Evaluation
There were some diversions from the original content of the curriculum, but the core of the project was implemented as expected and was well received by the target group of teens and the community supporting the teens. This shift in curriculum after the planning process highlights the importance of flexibility in community-based programs. The project would not have worked out as well for the community team had they been rigidly tied to certain activities. Teens were able to work with the mentor/artist team to express what was most important to them and what they wanted to achieve at the end of this process. For future implementation of a program like this, the team would recommend the following:
- Extra lead-up time to implementation so that parents/community can become aware of the project as a whole and comfortable with some more traditional methods of data collection (pre-post surveys of teens).
- Addition of teens to the team responsible for development/curriculum adjustment phase.
- Extra lead-up time for the training of Mentors for further familiarization with the curriculum.
- Teens suggested the creation of a “getting to know you” phase of the program before more intensive application of activities.
Outcomes and Conclusions
Since the completion of the camp, the teens involved have received and pursued several opportunities. First, the group continues to meet regularly and have formed a supportive social circle amongst themselves. They were asked to speak on their experience at an IUPUI undergraduate course and have also received paid speaking opportunities in which they lead discussions on leadership. Additionally, the teens raised over $2,500 through community fundraising and used some of that funding to start the Sawubona Lab: Biker Boyz and Girlz Shop. They also plan to use some of this funding to support others in their community through the form of micro-loans. After hearing about the program and the teens’ stories, three of them were also offered full-ride scholarships to Marian University.
Indeed, there were several positive outcomes to come directly from the implementation of the camp. However given the nature of a program like this and the subtle ripple effects, the true long-term impact has the potential to be much more wide-reaching. Again, the focus on resilience in this type of programming is significant as it centers on developing the skills that will protect teens from stress, a causal factor for school difficulties, problematic relationships, depression and chronic illnesses, poor health behaviors, and many problematic health conditions. By developing resilience, the project has the potential for broad and long-term impact across all domains of health and quality of life and we are already seeing the continuing effects in both the youth involved directly in the program and the momentum in the community that was facilitated by this collective effort.