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Create, Connect, Catalyze: YouthReach in FY23

Erik Holmgren, Program Manager

3 young people standing at microphones on a dramatically lit stage performing at a spoken word event
“That’s My Fam Teen Poetry Slam!” at the 2023 Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, MA. Several teams competed at Cinema Salem including teens from Mass Poetry’s SW@MP program (Spoken Word @ Mass Poetry)

“Every space I walk into, I’m told I’m wrong. My body is wrong, my skin color is wrong. When I write poems, I’m alright.”

– Middle school poet from East Boston at Mass Poetry spoken word event

Mass Cultural Council’s YouthReach is the longest continually running support program for Creative Youth Development (CYD) work in the United States. Founded in 1994, the program has invested more than $15 million across more than 100 organizations in its 29-year history.

YouthReach programs integrate experiences in the arts, sciences, and humanities with intentional youth development practices. Last year these funded programs worked with more than 11,000 young people in the Commonwealth.

Some characteristics of the young people engaged in these CYD programs include:

  • Nearly 80% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)
  • More than 61% live in economically depressed neighborhoods
  • 38% face neighborhood violence
  • 22% live in a home where English is not spoken
  • 13% are disabled
  • 8% are clients of the Department of Youth Services or the Department of Mental Health

Our report, Create, Connect, Catalyze: YouthReach in FY23, was created using the data provided by 85 Creative Youth Development programs funded by Mass Cultural Council in FY23. It outlines the major challenges facing the field of CYD and identifies effective solutions that are being deployed to address them. It was written for the field that contributed to it, for funders who support similar work, and for cross-sector partners who are seeking to address the same challenges that face youth across Massachusetts. Major findings of the report include:

  1. The number of young people participating in Creative Youth Development programs has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
  2. Mental health continues to be a deep, increasing challenge for youth, staff, and communities throughout Massachusetts and is tied to issues of recruitment, retention, staffing, and well-being.
  3. Creative Youth Development programs have begun to make structural changes to address these challenges through the creation of new staff positions and partnerships with cross-sector community organizations that share in their mission of co-creating safe, equitable, and healthy communities.

Read the Full Report

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