Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

City Kids@Sage Space of New Haven

Organizational Background

Founded in 1985 in New York City, The CityKids Foundation engages young people (ages 12-18) in after-school artistic and educational leadership development programs that enable them to turn feelings, reactions, and ideas about issues into creative and powerful action that positively affects their communities. CityKids' training empowers young people to build self-esteem and creatively express their voices through the arts and youth-driven community initiatives. In October 1996, the CityKids @ Safe Space of New Haven satellite program was launched to offer CityKids' programs to young people in New Haven, today we engage close to 400 young people from diverse communities in New Haven, and impact an additional 15,000 people through performances and workshops. Programs target at-risk youth but are offered free of charge to all youth, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

Quality of Instruction & Participant Performance; Program Design & Creative Content CityKids' programs enable young people to transform their feelings and experiences into original artistic material that communicates positive messages to their peers. Two full-time arts instructors supervise weekly programs offering safe, engaging opportunities during out-of-school hours. The nationally-known CityKids Repertory Company (Rep) provides young people with vocal, dance, theater, improvisation, creative writing, and performance skills. Professional quality performances are aired on local and national television and held at schools, community events, homeless shelters and wherever audiences gather. Members take leadership roles as dance, drama, and vocal captains, and work with staff to determine performance priorities.

Saturday workshops are held throughout the year, complemented by an intensive summer "Boot Camp."

New Works Lab is offered after-school for young people interested in the arts, but not necessarily performance. Staff and guest instructors teach music composition, creative writing, dance, and sound/technical applications. Youth create new pieces through improvisation, role playing and other interactive techniques. The program operates in eight-week cycles, culminating in a performance where youth showcase their work. Original works created in New Works Lab include an award-winning video and workshop about teen pregnancy (Kayla 's Story) that was incorporated into the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's curriculum.

CityKids now boasts a wide-ranging repertoire of original material, created by youth for youth, that addresses difficult issues such as self-esteem, racism, diversity, violence, hate, sexual harassment, drug abuse and more. This year, young people were deeply affected by the trial surrounding the death of a New Haven teenager, Malik Jones, who was fatally shot by a police officer. Through CityKids' programs, youth addressed racism, stereotyping, youth-police relations and how to improve them. A group of CityKids created a community meeting to exhibit original art and featured Malik's mother as a speaker. Rep collaborated with the New Haven Police Academy to create Eye to Eye, a play and interactive workshop co-written and performed by Rep members and Police Academy students. Through the play, audiences experienced each side of the youth-police relationship in challenging situations, and the actors conducted an interactive workshop with the audience to discuss issues presented in the play.

Creativity of Program's Approach Toward Engaging Youth Participants

Young people often feel helpless to change their environments or respond to issues that face them, which frequently leads to negative reactions ranging from apathy to violence. CityKids believes that in order to solve the problems facing young people, we must listen to them and engage them in action to change and/or improve their environments, demonstrating that their voices are powerful, meaningful, and necessary. Therefore, our programs are conducted in partnership with young people, empowering them to take positive action. We encourage involvement from parents, teachers, guidance counselors, neighbors, business leaders, and government officials.

Integration of Support Services, Prevention Strategies & Child Development

Rep members and New Works Lab participants receive leadership development training focusing on self-esteem, diversity, and conflict management, enabling young people to explore the issues they encounter on and off stage. Because CityKids is the primary non-school activity for most of its participants, we provide ongoing educational and support services for youth, including personalized case management, assessment and services to assist them in realizing their career and educational goals. A partnership with the Yale Child Study Center enables CityKids to offer social service referrals.

Evidence That the Program Is Making a Positive Impact On Attitudes & Development

Participants must maintain or improve academic performance while at CityKids, which is monitored and supported through partnerships with guidance counselors, teachers, parents, and tutors. Rep members are also assessed on evaluations of positive attitude, stage presence, teamwork, leadership, artistic work, and adherence to attendance guidelines. New Works Lab participants are assessed on attendance, participation, attitude, and what they learn and create during the program. Currently, 100% of participants are maintaining/improving academic performance; 85% of Rep members and 90% of New Works Lab participants graduate from their programs; and, 100% of graduates are engaged in higher education and/or jobs upon "aging out" of programs.


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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