Youth Leader Program Sets Institute Apart

We have often been asked how we are so successful in building an engaged community of families. While there are many answers to this question, one of the things that makes us unique among our colleagues in the arts is our Youth Leader Program. Part employment readiness, part peer-to-peer mentorship, part early childhood education, this program helps our teens to advance their leadership by volunteering, working in classrooms and participating in all the behind-the-scenes work that is necessary to make a vibrant arts center work.

Youth Leaders are the glue that holds our community together by acting as a bridge between students and Teaching Artists, supporting children based on their individual needs and addressing conflicts in the classroom. They do everything from sweeping our front porch to offering a kind ear, administering first-aid (they are CPR certified!), and reaching outside of the Institute to spread the word. They grow together, work on collaborative projects together and provide ideas for new classes and art forms. While they often start as volunteers, Youth Leaders advance as they gain skills.

Sometimes they even become Teaching Artists like Anthony Martinez, pictured above, or Program Administrators, as is the case with our Youth Leader Coordinator, Chris Torres and our Assistant Youth Leader Coordinator Kierrah Nelson, who both came up through the program.

“I believe having youth join in this leadership program significantly impacts their development. Being in this program gives youth opportunities to expand on their skill set, work on their communication and socialization skills, be given an environment where everyone, even teachers, are learning with each other and sharing special moments while doing something they love in the arts,” says Youth Leader Kimberly Mendoza. “Youth in the program also gain a sense of self during the whole experience, they find their strong suits and learn to manage themselves, as well as groups of people who range in age.”