Read the full article here!
An article written by our Co-Founder, Adam Jacobs, has been featured in the Afterschool Matters Journal! He talks all about the philosophy and results of creative youth development and process-oriented programs, like Kids Creative.
Read the full article here!
“I remember the overall relaxing, carefree environment that both the summer camps and after school had where they encourage you being yourself. They encourage you to be as unique and genuine as possible, which is really hard to find in other places where you have to act a certain way, or you have to pose yourself a certain way,” Manley Carter, a Kids Creative alum, told us when we caught up with him recently.
Manley is currently a Photography major at Bard College. Though he’s in his second year of college now, Manley was once a camper and after school student at Kids Creative. He still remembers how the program helped him break out of his shell, telling us, “Overall it helped me to grow as a person a lot over the years, and it’s helped me just be more comfortable opening up to other people.” Through Kids Creative, Manley was given the space and tools to build his confidence, and it helped him grow from a shy, quiet kid to an assertive and confident young adult who’s ready to take on the world.
There was one scene from a play that Manley remembers particularly well. He laughs as he explains, “I was 11, so it was maybe my fourth or fifth year at Kids Creative, and we had done this one play. I remember in the play I was supposed to be this wizard...and I remember no matter how many times we rehearsed that scene, everyone would be laughing because it was such a funny, genuine scene that we were able to come up with.”
Having the opportunity to come up with their own show, rather than performing a play that had already been written, really helped Manley and his friends in the program feel that much more invested. He says, “It was something you and your classmates came up with, so you were able to have as much fun with it as possible, and I think that’s what made the experience all the better.”
“At Kids Creative they accepted you no matter who you were, no matter where you came from, no matter what background you came from and welcomed you with open arms,” Manley told us of his time at KC. It’s this attitude of community, acceptance, and positivity that we strive to continue each and every day for all of our students.
It was great getting a chance to catch up with Manley, and we wish him all the best as he continues at Bard College, hoping to one day work as a freelance photographer or in photojournalism. We can’t wait to watch him and his fellow KC rock stars create a more peaceful world!
Written by the KC Team
We are in awe of how many people joined us at CREATE on Thursday, November 15, 2018, our annual fundraising event, even though it was in the middle of the year's first snowstorm. Here are two speeches from the evening:
Ashley Bermudez, Former Human Resources and Program Manager
Some of you here may know me personally, others may have only heard of me, and the rest are probably wondering when I’ll get to the point. My name is Ashley and I worked for Kids Creative for 7 years, the longest job I’ve ever had...thanks Adam! During those 7 years I worked 5 different positions, my favorite was when I miraculously became the Human Resources and Program Coordinator. Yea...idk either. But being in this position required me to work with Adam every day. Every. Single. Day. And I couldn’t have asked for a better boss, who became a friend, and ultimately my mentor. Adam showed me what real professional patience and work ethic looks like. Everyday he came to work and gave everything because he believed and still does, that children’s voices and creativity need to be heard and can be done through quality after school and summer camp programs. I knew when I had my oldest daughter Malia, there wasn't another program I'd want her enrolled in for the summer. I'm pretty sure I tried to get her in an after school program where she wasn't a student. Working wit the KC team I knew how much effort we put into hiring quality staff, producing great shows, and creating a safe environment for families, it was exactly where I wanted my daughter to be. She's attended for 3 summers and no matter what changes have happened the integrity has stayed the same. I have a youngest daughter as well, Camryn. She'll be starting summer camp next summer to become a part of this amazing family.
It took me a few years into motherhood to realize that these people and those programs had a hand in preparing me to be the mother I am. All the carefully curated curriculum, all the consideration for the inclusion of the kids we were teaching, all the love we demanded our instructors to have for their craft has become ingrained in me so deeply that it’s affected the way i communicate with my kids. It’s affected the way I love them and the way i explore life with them. Kids Creative has cemented its way into my life more than I can explain, there’s actually no reason why I still remember DOH addresses and how to log into online systems for background checks on staff. So I’d like to thank you Adam. Thank you for always being encouraging, patient, and one of the kindest men I have ever met. And with that being said, Co-Founder of Kids Creative, the greatest theater-based children’s program ever, Adam Jacobs.
Adam Jacobs, Co-Founder and Former Executive Director
Hi. Thanks for joining us tonight at CREATE. Like Ashley said, my name is Adam Jacobs and I’m honored to be honored as one of the co-founders of Kids Creative.
I’m here to take you on the journey of a spark. A spark ignites electricity that travels along a wire, bringing electricity, light, heat, and more from one place to the next to the next, until it has reached an entire community. A spark starts the flame that keeps us connected.
A spark can also be an idea that charges us and ignites our excitement, collaboration, and confidence, and gets passed from one person to another. That spark has the potential to galvanize a group of people and create an immediate connection, even if we have just met. I believe that spark even has the potential to foster peace.
At Kids Creative, our motto is “All ideas are good”. Some see our motto and say, “That’s just not true”. But we challenge that notion: the idea itself may not foster peace. For meaningful peaceful interactions, we need to focus on how each idea, and in turn each person, is responded to and valued. While an idea can be very powerful, it’s only the start. I’m not an electrical engineer, but I do know that to ensure that electricity reaches everyone, the spark needs to conduct energy along a wire without blockage. It’s actually how we react to someone’s idea that determines how that energy is passed from one person to another. When everyone in the room says Yes!, it can help spark self-confidence, and others are encouraged to share more ideas and this excitement becomes palpable. If treated right, this energy can drive a community.
However, if not handled correctly, the line can be blocked. Negative reactions to ideas, such as saying “No” or “That’s a bad idea” or “That will never work” as soon as an idea is shared, can not only stop someone from sharing, but it can also lead us to stifle our own ideas. Think back to a time in your life when instead of saying “Yes” to your idea, someone responded to you by saying “No”. What was it like? Did you feel like you were stopped? Did it frustrate you, make you feel sad, angry? What did it feel like physically? Does it make you slump, nauseous, worse? You may have even questioned your own validity in sharing more ideas in the future. When we question the vailidity of our ideas, it can lead to self-doubt and a blockage to pursuing peace. The spark can change all of that.
When I entered college, I explored conflict resolution through a degree in international politics, thinking I would work in peacebuilding for the UN. Then, during the summer between my Junior and Senior years, my older brother Stephen asked me to join him to run a 2-week camp where kids wrote and produced a musical play. We had worked together before, and it was always fun, so why not? It would be a nice break. Little did I know that creating the musical "00-Chicken, 00-Duck, Secret Agent Spies in the Land of Dr. Huggahbuggah" with those 12 kids that summer would teach me more about conflict resolution than I learned studying conflicts around the world in school.
That summer, I found a spark that led me on an 18-year journey exploring peace education, youth development, and the challenge of running a nonprofit organization in NYC. My brother and I started Kids Creative, and realized that we were doing more than just writing music and plays. We were creating a space where peace was possible. We were helping kids (and ourselves) normalize conflict resolution in a way that was meaningful and beneficitial to their lives.
The process at Kids Creative is pretty simple: “All ideas are good” and “Yes, and”. We realized that how someone reacts to an idea is sometimes more important than the idea itself. Others may perceive our reactions to new ideas as a demonstrating of how we treat them as people. So when one person says something, the other person says, “Yes, and”. Music, theater, visual art, storytelling, video making, these are all vehicles we use to engage, so that we get the chance to say Yes.
Not all ideas are used in the final project that the kids create. Some ideas can be violent or dangerous, but we found that instead of saying “No” right away, we needed to challenge ourselves to help the children imagine non-violent and safe alternatives without saying no. We found that the editing process could wait, but the more that we maintained the momentum of the initial spark, the more buy-in we had from our children and from each other. Saying, “That’s an interesting idea, can you tell me more?” to a potentially violent idea actually did more for building peace and minimizing violent ideas that came up than saying “No”.
There are two types of peace, both important to understand—negative or reactive peace, and positive or proactive peace. Negative peace means stopping a fight or a war. Simply getting the two sides to stop being violent. When violence happens, we have to have tools to stop specific actions.
Kids Creative sets up spaces so that violence doesn’t have to happen. We have tools to mitigate conflicts, and found that we reduced violent and disruptive behavior in our programs by about 90%. We started saying “No teasing or fake teasing, no fighting or fake fighting,” and “it’s up to the person who is being teased to define teasing”. So instead of a child getting upset and saying “I was just kidding,” we remind them their words and actions have an impact on others. We aimed to identify what potentially could spark anger, and try to find alternatives.
In the outside world, there are systems in place that create violence, such as poverty, racism, unchecked aggression, and our classes try to help youth identify ways to work as a community to lift each other out of these negative spaces of violence, which are deep and systemic. We believe that the more people understand how to recognize systems of violence, we can truly reach a more equitable, peaceful world. If we find a way to be proactive and positive, the process of searching for that spark helps us create peace.
Kids Creative strives for more and more youth to enjoy fun, creative experiences, whether through free Creative Saturdays workshops, free after school and summer programs in Harlem and The Bronx, or providing scholarships to over 50% of participants in the Upper West Side Summer Camp. The programs also strive to empower youth to engage with others inside our schools, and to manage relationships and conflicts that arise outside of the safe space we set up. As I exit my role as Executive Director, I have worked with the Board and staff to ensure that these programs are sustained, and your support tonight and ongoing is essential. Donations to Kids Creative allow this small team to have a large reach, and the over 1,000 participants in Kids Creative programs benefit in the short and long term.
I want to thank the amazing KC staff, campers and families, Board past and present, KC donors and my Family--Ari, Tabitha, Stephen, my parents and all of the other family members who joined us.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening. Please speak with others, whether you know them or not, and ask how arts education was important in their lives. Talk about teachers who inspired you. Talk about what makes a space safe for you. And then put a value on giving those opportunities to a 5-year-old in East Harlem, an 11-year-old on the Upper West Side, or a 17-year-old from the South Bronx. And then bid on items, become a sustaining member, make a donation. Help KC continue to show kids that they rock!
In 2000, when my brother Stephen asked me to join him and a friend to run a 2-week camp where kids wrote and produced a play, it seemed like a fun way to spend part of my summer break between Junior and Senior Years of college. Little did I know that creating the musical "00-Chicken, 00-Duck, Secret Agent Spies" that summer would lead me on an 18-year journey exploring peace education, the excitement of youth development, and the challenge of founding and running a nonprofit organization in NYC. I'm grateful to everyone who has taken time to mentor, guide and coach me and the organization through this fulfilling time. I am who I am because of the esteemed people with whom I have had the honor to work.
I'm writing to share some important and exciting news from Kids Creative. After 17+ years, I have decided to step down as Executive Director to move on to new endeavors in peace education. I have been considering this change for a number of years, and the Board, staff and I are taking steps to make it happen this year in a way that does not disrupt our programming or operations. I'm both sad and excited to leave--sad because this has been such a rewarding journey, but excited since Kids Creative has a phenomenal team and I see a great future for the organization.
The Board of Directors and staff have selected Dr. Nanci Coppola, an experienced leader with many years in youth development (and a trained physician!) as Interim Executive Director, to help our team of staff, Board of Directors and youth prepare for the next phase of Kids Creative, including a search for the next long-term Executive Director.
We have experienced great growth, including being recognized with two new 5-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grants through 2022. In addition, thanks to supporters, partners and families like you, a dedicated Board of Directors, and multi-year funding from The Pinkerton Foundation, The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, The West Side Children's Fund and many others, Kids Creative has reached a level of potential that I never dreamed possible.
We are embarking on a new phase of life as an organization. Anyone who has attended a training or program with me knows that I love analogies and my analogy for this transition is that it feels like sending a child off to college (I imagine since my son is only 3 years old :). I feel like we have raised the organization for 18 years, nurturing, guiding, stumbling, creating, breaking, fixing, learning and encouraging. Now, it's time to let it go, watch it spread its wings and soar (I did say I love analogies).
I'm proud of what we have learned through the collaborative creative process. Peace making begins by building one's own self-confidence, and the arts provide the perfect vehicle for learning the skills to be proactive peace makers in the world. The key lesson that I'm taking away is that creativity and "Yes, and...," key components of our curricula, are essential for conflict resolution.
I will support this transition part time through June 30th (and beyond as needed), and will continue to contribute to the nonprofit sector, peace education and the arts. I will stay involved in Kids Creative throughout the transition, and as a final step, I plan to join the Board of Directors in the future.
With our current team and the addition of Dr. Coppola, I know that what my brother Stephen and I started in 2000, creating hundreds of original plays and helping thousands of youth learn to peacefully resolve conflicts, will continue to grow and strengthen.
I have worked with some amazing individuals throughout my tenure, and am in awe of the strong staff poised to lead us into the future. Kids Creative alum are making impressive impacts in the world, both as artists/performers/musicians and as changemakers. My biggest source of pride is that I see kids who are kind, self-aware, and dedicated to building community in their schools, colleges, homes and neighborhoods.
In the words of author Robert Fulghum (or John Lennon, depending where you look on the internet), "Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away." Therefore, even though I'm leaving my current post, the work continues for all of us and I'm grateful to all of you for your continued support of youth, creativity, peace and the arts.
In peace, love and gratitude,
Co-Founder and Outgoing Executive Director
Happy Valentine's Day.
Love can be celebrated in many forms. Love isn't just romantic. Love from family members is essential for a child's growth and development. Siblings have a unique way to show love (I know, I started Kids Creative with my brother :).
Communities also have a responsibility to show love to their members in a safe, respectful way. At Kids Creative, we show love by celebrating each person's voice, and lifting each other up in a supportive way. Love at Kids Creative means helping each person be who they strive to be. We try to recognize our own biases and even when our first instinct is to say "no" to an idea, we treat each other with respect by instead saying "yes, and...". Love is asking questions about an idea instead of attacking. At the base of all interactions in Kids Creative is the notion that we want each other to succeed by reaching individual and communal goals. This allows us to create a space for positive/proactive peace.
I think back to Lin Manuel Miranda's speech following the tragic shooting in Orlando: We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers,
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.
On this Valentine's Day, let's celebrate by listening, lifting up each other's voice and saying "Yes, and...".
The Kids Creative Vision is a nice sentiment. "At Kids Creative, we believe that a better, more peaceful future is achievable by teaching youth the creative, critical thinking and social skills necessary to make peace within themselves and in society."
But can our vision be more than a nice sentiment? Can peace be more than just a dream? The current climate (both politically and environmentally) are not very "peaceful". Climate change is rearing its devastatingly ugly head, while families, kids and even our own staff face racist, xenophobic and sexist experiences that effect their lives.
So how can we dream about a peaceful future when our present seems so dire? Because we have to. Elise Boulding in Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History says “Peace Cultures thrive on and are nourished by visions of how things might be…The very ability to imagine something different and better than what currently exists is critical for the possibility of social change…People can't work for what they can't imagine.”
We recognize that peace is difficult, but we envision a peaceful future because when we think positively, the future holds endless possibilities.
Recently, we tried something we don't do very often. We brought together a group of adults and used the Kids Creative process to imagine a story. I challenged this group to use their imaginations, which is easy with kids, but is increasingly tougher as our participants get older. This was an amazing story--before we spoke about any negatives in society, in our lives, we just imagined.
When our imaginations are unfettered, positivity reigned. The room had a palpable energy and an excitement because anything was possible. We could have dreamed of unique solutions to any problem, and that's what we did.
A group of adults created "The Jaded Moon", the story of worms from Mars who get to visit Earth once a year to eat all of the candy corn that nobody else eats. Our story explored many themes, including agriculture, environmentalism, communication, economic monopolies and, most importantly, conflict and resolution.
We all left the workshop to return to the "real" world, but the Kids Creative vision was front and center in each of our minds. We all left with a bit more hope, because we had dreamed of what was possible.
And that's what the Kids Creative vision is all about. Training each of us--kids and adults alike--to approach each other and the world as positively as possible, and to never give up our ability to dream.
Imagine: What would the world look like if we resolved conflicts peacefully? What if it was second nature to follow Kids Creative's 1st Cornerstone: "Be safe, don't harm: Safe bodies, safe minds"? What if we were able to listen and respect each other for who we are? The world is seeking out hope and help, and while we cannot solve all the major issues now, we can envision a more peaceful future through "Yes, and...", our way to listen.