January first may be the official beginning of the new year, but for many people September first is really when we start something new or change our routine. Whether you’re a student or not the end of summer and start of the school year somehow feels like a fresh start. For this reason the Expressions Program of the Arts runs September through June to help young people in the HomeBridge Community find a fresh start.
HomeBridge has been offering this arts-based, therapeutic program for nearly 15 years and every year we see many new beginnings for the young people who take part. The facilitators, who bring art, music therapy, photography and circus skills to life, often plant the seeds of change in these vulnerable youth. They make connections with young people who are scared and withdrawn. They help youth with severely damaged self-esteem and self-worth discover talents they weren’t aware they had. They help those who try to go it alone find a sense of belonging in the group. And they help the participants find a hobby or passion they can use as a coping strategy when they move on.
Young people who lack the ability to express their thoughts can use music to help tell their story; those who have difficulty processing emotion can use paints or photography to capture their feelings in a tactile form. Through the Expressions program, our skilled facilitators are able to use the arts to help the young people in the HomeBridge Community transcend time and environment, to feel safe, accepted, and heard.
Generally speaking, these youth have experienced a great deal of adversity in their lives, and they have many areas of limitation that may, or may not, be identified before they come to be in our care. HomeBridge serves approximately 120 vulnerable young people a year in our programs. The circumstances that surround these youth coming into care are vast, but one common element is always present: a need for support and connection. Through our Youth Care Teams, we are able to provide this support each and every day; however, we are also fortunate to be able to provide additional, experiential support through the Expressions program.
Throughout the years, this program has allowed countless youth to explore talents they never knew they had, and has helped them learn to express themselves in unique and exciting ways. This year’s theme, Promoting Diversity, Creativity, and Self-Expression through the Arts, has truly been a goal of the program since its inception in 2004. Youth who are involved are encouraged to be their authentic selves, to share their unique experiences and abilities, and to tell their stories or create new ones through the use of art, music, or photography. Our community is diverse, and so too are the methods we use to foster creative opportunities.
While many of the young people who participate in this program have experienced significant challenges in their lives, such as family breakdown, academic difficulty, or social isolation, to name a few, the Expressions program provides opportunity for them to feel successful without expectation, without strict boundaries, and without judgement. Feeling success in just one activity can lead to an increase in self-esteem, self-expression, creativity, and curiosity. We aim to open windows for the young people where doors have been closed on them in the past. We want to build their strength, their resilience, and their foundations for successful and fulfilling futures.
Giving youth choices as a vehicle to express themselves is also key to building capacity and skill. This helps foster confidence and competence. Expressions offers participants many options of programming where the focus allows them to express themselves in a comfortable, safe and fun environment. Beyond that, it promotes a sense of accomplishment, mastery and belonging. In short, this multi-component life skills program utilizes the arts to facilitate resiliency and success.
Thank you to the generous donors who support Expressions. We truly could not offer this meaningful program without you!