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AfA’s pre- and post-surveys, conducted on youth in the Phoenix Rising program since 2009, show that our creative empowerment programs are not only essential for engaging youth in the arts—particularly their own creative genius—but also fundamental to providing the self-value and motivation necessary for youth to take advantage of educational opportunities, job and career counseling, drug and alcohol rehab, and mental health services.
AfA measures impact through nine survey self-assessment domains: Program Quality & Satisfaction, Academic Success, Arts & Culture, Community Involvement, Cultural Responsiveness, Life Skills, Positive Life Choices, Core Values, and Sense of Self. Evaluation assessments allow for qualitative statements such as “I can express myself through poetry,” “I show others how I see the world through poetry,” and “I feel that I can make a difference.”
AfA’s 2018 survey results for all programs, when comparing responses to youth who submitted both pre- and post-survey responses, show that marginalized young people are developing connections to their communities and that the curriculum produces in youth a deeper belief in themselves and their potential, leading to improved social and emotional skills and behavior. Survey responses indicate:
- a 92% increase in youth who say they feel a strong connection with their community,
- a 185% increase in youth who say they make good decisions,
- a 29% increase in youth who say they stay away from drugs, and
- a 89% increase in youth who feel they have control over things that happen to them.
AfA’s surveys include space for personal testimonials about the program. When asked what change, if any, they saw in their life as a result of this program, youth responses included:
- “I have creative genius in me, and people want to hear it spoken.”
- “Art from Ashes has helped me get into writing and finding the passion that had lay within.”
- “I see a huge change. I didn’t know I could be the creative. In a way, I didn’t know how much I have in me.”
- “I will have more faith in myself when it comes to making important decisions in life.”
By guiding young people in creative exploration leading to self-discovery, AfA programs empower youth to become successful, contributing citizens, benefiting the community at large. As one young participant wrote to a facilitator, “I can’t put into words the power you gave back to me. Especially with all that has gone on in my life until now. You inspire me to be a better person every day. Thank you.”
The value of the program is regularly recognized by community members, as evidenced by this recent testimonial: “I can’t thank you enough…The work that you do is helping to transform our school and inspire our students more than you may know.”
— Brian Sleevi, creative writing teacher at The New America School in Thornton, Colorado.
Many youth, including survivors of trauma and abuse, continue to attest to the long-term impact AfA has had on their lives. Former youth participants attend community performances and continue to visit the office and drop in on workshops to personally testify to the positive impact AfA workshops have had on their lives. Youth participants frequently go on to become public speakers in support of the program, train as facilitators, and become guest artists.
AfA’s evaluation results are integrated into ongoing curriculum design enhancement and program implementation, improved staff training, and communication of program results to community partners and funders.
In 2019 we partnered with 21 schools and agencies to facilitate 264 workshops with 1,003 youth participants. That’s 2,013 youth contacts between the age of 12 and 24!
In January 2012, AfA was awarded a Service to Science grant through SAMHSA to fund enhancements to its evaluations program. AfA is also participating in the National Research Center’s (NRC) Youth Outcomes Coalition by contributing post-survey data that will be included in both statewide and national assessments and comparisons. Additionally, AfA contributes data to the Alliance for Creative Youth Development, comprised of out-of-school, arts-based, youth development-focused agencies in metropolitan Denver. The agency’s programs evaluator, Lewis Lease, MSW, is working to keep AfA on the cutting edge of data-driven youth empowerment programs.
The Report on Community-Based Youth Organizations by the Carnegie Foundation found that young people who are involved in after-school community arts programs:
• are 4 times more likely to have won school-wide attention for their academic achievement
• are elected to class office within their schools more than 3 times as often
• are 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
• are 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
• are more than 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem
“The change I see in my life after Art from Ashes is speaking more about what I feel.”
—youth from DSST Middle School
Numerous studies assert that participation in the arts promotes positive outcomes in other academic disciplines and in social development and cognitive capacity; and that learning in the arts helps shape motivation, intense self-discipline, confidence and perseverance.
“I have ‘come out of my shell’ more because of these workshops.”
—youth from Rainbow Alley