Adventure Stage Chicago Receives Allstate Insurance Company Grant To Expand Youth Mentorship Program
(CHICAGO – April 27, 2016) – Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) has been awarded a grant from Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) in support of its Trailblazers youth mentorship program.
The Trailblazers program came about in 2011, when ASC examined the city’s theatrical landscape and saw that the artistic community was collectively failing to elevate the voices of Chicago’s underserved children and families. This gap was especially prevalent in its home community of West Town, the city’s predominantly Hispanic west side, where, like many of Chicago’s youth, young people currently experience significant upheaval in their lives, from neighborhood violence to school instability and displacement. As a company committed to serving low-income and diverse audiences, ASC and its parent organization, Northwestern Settlement (The Settlement) collaborated with the EmcArts Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to eliminate silos between arts and social services for low-income youth. With the addition of Allstate’s support, Trailblazers continues to be the most directly impactful of these initiatives.
"Allstate's leadership support will enable us to double the number of youth who can participate in the program,” said Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins, ASC Managing Director. “We are thankful for CEO Tom Wilson's vision to continue to empower the youth of Chicago through Allstate's immense charitable giving."
Trailblazers currently operates year-round, pairing professional theater artists with over 25 young people ages 10-15 to create art inspired by the members' experiences, empowering them to be the storytellers of their own lives. Mentor artists are ASC teaching artists and members of the company's ensemble that instill theatre skills and guidance as well as foster social-emotional development and creativity in a safe space. Youth exercise problem-solving and are empowered to follow their own ideas with mentor support.
“The Trailblazers program was created to inspire young people to become their best selves through theatre-making and self-expression. Young artists learn how to collaborate creatively, build self-confidence and become leaders in their own lives,” said Allison Latta, ASC Associate Artistic Director. “Allstate’s donation expands the Trailblazers program to reach more young artists in the 2016-2017 school year. We know our Trailblazers will go on to make the world a better and brighter place. For that, we can all be grateful.”
The Trailblazers program structure has a rigorous curriculum and assessment model with rubrics that measure dramatic arts skills, critical literacy, ensemble (valuing the voice of the group and of others), and social skills (valuing interpersonal and group interactions). Assessment highlights from the most recent session include: average willingness to lead increased by 73%, self-awareness increased by 32%, and self-confidence increased by 40%.
Trailblazers’ self-evaluations also demonstrate key developmental growth. Youth participants reported personal growth in leading activities for friends and for strangers, asserting their ideas, and accepting responsibility. Countless participants in their end-of-year self-evaluations describe being proud of: “expressing myself more using my voice, and knowing that I can do it;” “I have really opened up and shared my voice;” “becoming a leader has really brought character to me and has changed how I view things.”
Original productions are presented during the school year and summer sessions, at ASC’s professional 299-seat Vittum Theater. An inquiry question is explored through the play development and production process. Most recently, this question was “What do I want to tell the world?” To vet out concepts, Trailblazers embark on story sharing and ensemble-building activities, theatre exercises and games, workshops with area arts partners, and field trips to cultural locations. These activities produce the inspiration and the raw thematic material for the content of culminating shows. Storytelling becomes the means to safely and openly discuss sensitive issues and culminating productions have tackled pressing themes such as bullying, loss, grief, and neighborhood violence. As the program has grown, ASC has increased outreach so youth participants are performing for their peers in addition to their families and friends. To ensure accessibility for our diverse and low-income audience, attendance is free.
ASC Trailblazers presents its fifth mainstage production, Unspoken, at the Vittum Theater, 1012 North Noble Street on April 29, 2016 at 7PM and April 30, 2016 at 4PM. Free tickets and more information are available atadventurestage.org or 773-342-4141.
Adventure Stage Chicago