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The Mission of Art from Ashes is to empower struggling youth by providing creative programs that facilitate health and hope through expression, connection and transformation.

The following poems and interviews with youth were written by the young participants in the various poetry sessions conducted in Colorado (presented with the permission of the authors). These poems are not censored. Please contact us for more information or refer to our YOUTH WORKSHOPS page.

A story by Jessica Fitzgerald, Phoenix Rising Program Director
Phoenix Rising logo One of our partners in the past year was Excelsior Youth Center. Since 1973 Excelsior has provided residentialtreatment for adolescent girls struggling with social and emotional problems, ranging from personal and family-oriented to human sex trafficking. While at Excelsior, one of the girls pulled a facilitator aside after we had completed our second of six workshops. She wanted to thank us for coming to do the workshops with them. She also assured the facilitator that even though the girls were often loud and seemed like they were not paying attention, that this was the best behavior they had managed all week in any setting, and that they really did enjoy the workshops. It was a great reminder for our facilitators, that even when we think we may not be having an impact, showing we care and listening to their stories makes a huge difference in their lives. One of the girls insisted we post her poem on Facebook. She had suffered so much in her life, and she told us this poem was one of the few things she had ever been proud of:

3-Minute poem by Chasity, 17 (in residential treatment)
It's time I spoke

I was told I was fat and ugly, because I didn't
look like the girls on TV or in magazines.
Why should we? Why do we even try?
I used to try to be like them,
but now I love myself
for who I am inside and out
without a doubt,
because we are all beautiful
in our own way.
We don't have to change for anyone,
we just have to be ourselves.
Being ourselves is the best thing
that you can do and/or be.
If we doubt ourselves or who we are,
we will never know who we will be
and/or become.

SELECT THIS LINK for more stories...

featured youth poet, Shiloh Michels, 17
Shiloh Michels "In the workshops, everyone opens up to each other because we don't have to be the person that others 'expect' us or need us to be. We can just be ourselves and support each other."

3-Minute Poem: If Only You Would Listen

Dear Mother, Mother.
Have you ever heard me cry?
Scream to myself late at night?
Do you even know that I am gay?
Will you accept me anyway?
All I want to do is run away.
Forget everything that you say.
Sing a song I once heard.
Maybe it will ease the pain.
Maybe we'll find out another day.
Before it becomes too late.

AfA: I understand that you are an intern from the CEC executive internship program for graduating seniors. What made you decide to choose Art from Ashes as the place to gain professional experience for class credit?

Shiloh: My teacher was aware of my interest in the performing arts and the psychology profession and thought it would a good fit.

AfA: What career field are you going into?

Shiloh: I hope to pursue my interest in music as a producer and develop my interest in psychology. I would like to teach psychology someday. Working with AfA has really opened my eyes to what youth today are dealing with in their lives, and I hope to use my interest in psychology to teach young people that they are not alone in what they are experiencing.

AfA: Has working with AfA changed your perspective on the issues that youth are facing in society today?

Shiloh: Definitely. I didn't realize the problems that youth are experiencing in the community. There are kids that want help, but there aren't enough programs out there to serve them.

AfA: Do you feel that the programs like the workshops at AfA would benefit your own circle of friends and family?

Shiloh: Absolutely. I feel like I know the people I met in the workshops better than I know my friends. The workshops encourage us to share what we are really going on in our lives. It gives us an opportunity to support each other on a deeper level, because we know exactly what the other person is going through, because they've heard us in the workshop. In addition, I think that high schools should consider these workshops as an offering to their students. It would encourage fellowships and alleviate stress for the youth who feel alone.

AfA: It sounds like the workshops are effective at getting the youth to open up.

Shiloh: Exactly. Just like my grandma tells me everything, things that I don't think she even tells her own children. In the workshops, everyone opens up to each other because we don't have to be the person that others "expect" us or need us to be. We can just be ourselves and support each other.

AfA: I see what you mean. So you're really bonding and learning a lot about each other in the workshops.

Shiloh: That's nothing compared to what we're learning about ourselves. I had no idea that I had my own "style" of poetry. I've shared more of myself through the poetry I've written with AfA than I ever have with my music.

AfA: Do you think you will continue your work with AfA?

Shiloh: Definitely. I am going to see if I continue my internship next semester, but I'll continue my service with the organization indefinitely.

previously featured youth poets

Wolf Girl, 23
Natalia, 24
Shyla, 17
Khalid, 16
Reality, 13
Giovanni, 21

poems by venue
Click on the link for a list of poems created at each venue
The Spot Urban Youth Center
Columbine High School

poems by poet
Click on each name for a poem by that author; poets are listed in alphabetical order by first name
Aaron Williams, 23
Abby Templeton, 23
Giovanni Lopez, 21
Jamal Miles, 15
James McDonald, 21
Ketha Johnson, 19
Molly, 21
Phoenix, 23
Reality, 13

download a pdf of the collection :: CLICK HERE
*If you are between the age of 14 and 24, you are welcome to come to The Spot at 21st and Stout any Tuesday night from 5 to 7 pm and participate in a workshop. There is no fee, and we'll provide writing materials and any necessary art supplies. CLICK HERE for a map to The Spot.
by Aaron Williams, 23
Stealing My Sunlight by Aaron Williams, 23
Poetry by Abby Templeton, 23
El Camino by Abby Templeton, 23
My World by Giovanni Lopez, 21
Let Go by Giovanni Lopez, 21
Judgment of Me? by Jamal Miles, 15
Forgiveness by James McDonald, 21
I Am Sacred by Ketha Johnson, 19
A Letter To My Parents/My Love Is From Within by Ketha Johnson, 19
Temple Women by Phoenix, 23
Teach Me To Be a Woman by Phoenix, 23
Down by the River by Molly, 21
Hero by Reality, 13

more to come
Friends Killing Friends by Jocelyn Heckler

partners :: community collaborators
Art from Ashes facilitators are in partnership with or have collaborated with 86 schools and organizations to provide Phoenix Rising transformational poetry workshops for the youth in their care, including:

To make a donation that will support an 8-workshop session for up to 20 youth, please download sponsorship information.

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