Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Art from Ashes, Inc.: Phoenix Rising Poetry and Spoken Word Program

Art from Ashes, Inc. (AfA) is a nonprofit organization that has been serving young people in partnership with numerous Denver-area youth-serving agencies over the past 18 years. Its mission is to empower struggling youth by providing creative programs that facilitate health and hope through expression, connection, and transformation. AfA implements the Phoenix Rising Poetry and Spoken Word curriculum to guide youth participants through a process whereby they may alter their own perceptions of trauma and the difficulty experienced in their lives, choosing instead an identity based on the power of creativity, self-expression, and resilience, rather than victimization.

In Phoenix Rising workshops, youth are introduced to the idea of their innate creative genius and encouraged to discover the power of their own voices to overcome struggles with their difficult circumstances, and the associated self-sabotaging behaviors. Participants are encouraged to identify the forces in their lives that work against their progress, and develop alternative coping skills through poetry and other creative expressions that give them an awareness of their power to create positive outcomes in their future.

The youth served face numerous challenges—chronic homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, truancy, delinquency, and disenfranchisement at several levels of engagement with society. Existing pre-/post-test assessment attests to the power of Phoenix Rising as an effective intervention for the marginalized young people served. Youth participating in Phoenix Rising workshops indicate improved self-assessment of their own academic engagement, artistic aptitude, community engagement, diversity awareness, pro-social behavior, resistance (to negative behavior), self-esteem, and self-efficacy.

Although pleased with the outcomes indicated by ongoing evaluation efforts, AfA plans to use support provided through the SAMHSA Service to Science Subcontract to Build Evaluation Capacity for Evidence-based Interventions to bring its program evaluation system to a higher level of methodological rigor by:

  • exploring associations between the frequency of a participant’s workshop attendance and the quality of change in participant response on pre- and post-surveys to understand dosage effects.
  • introducing a comparison group to the existing pre-/post-test design to help rule out alternative explanations of outcomes achieved.
  • gathering qualitative information via focus groups and interviews with youth participants, staff and volunteers, and community partner stakeholders to better understand quantitative findings.

 

Contact

Catherine O’Neill Thorn
Executive Director
Art from Ashes, Inc.
853 Inca St., Ste 1A
Denver, Colorado 80204
Phone: (303) 837-1550
info@artfromashes.org

Lewis Lease
Analyst
Art from Ashes, Inc.
853 Inca St., Ste 1A
Denver, Colorado 80204
Phone: (303) 837-1550
lewis@artfromashes.org