The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office – COMBAT (Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax) has invested the last 13 years in reducing juvenile delinquency and providing at-risk youth with a safe place to express their artistic creativity through the Changing Lives Through the Arts Initiative. This initiative began with the “Sentenced to the Arts Program” (STTAP). STTAP was created and implemented to provide innovative art education and expressive therapy to adjudicated youth involved with the Jackson County, Missouri Family Court (JCFC). COMBAT is part of a unique collaboration with ArtsTech, Jackson County Family Court, local artists, and youth serving agencies. Without these engaged partners, STTAP would not have realized it’s successful development and positive impact on troubled youth, school practices, and community commitment to art development initiatives. STTAP has been successful in building upon protective factors while reducing risk factors to combat juvenile delinquency. STTAP services include art programs in a wide range of areas including but not limited to, Capeoira Brazilian Martial Arts Dance, African Dance & Drumming, Visual Arts, Theatre, Music Production, Ceramics, Storytelling, and Creative Writing.
This highly successful endeavor began in March of 1999, when the City of Kansas City, Missouri was awarded a Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant (JAIBG) from the Missouri Department of Public Safety to develop programs that would provide graduated sanctions for adjudicated youth offenders. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office – COMBAT was entrusted with managing the “Sentenced to the Arts” Program (STTAP). This was the beginning of a unique and very effective program, offering youth a creative outlet within the arts coupled a therapeutic approach, focusing on the positive effects of youth mentoring. Since then, it has been the goal of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to decrease the likelihood to commit post treatment offense, reduce recidivism, and improve behavior.
In 2012, STTAP merged with MyARTS creating a diverse, challenging, and productive environment for the young artists. This allows youth to have immediate access to arts education in an all-encompassing environment.
MyARTS (Metropolitan Youth Arts & Technology for Students) is a program for all at-risk youth where they are given a voice and an opportunity to express their creativity through five studios; Graphic Design, Visual Arts, Darkroom Photography, Screen Printing, and Ceramics. MyARTS began in 2006 in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. In 2012, the success over six years led to a second location and the primary location in Independence, Missouri. With two locations, MyARTS East and MyARTS Downtown, the program is able to better serve the youth based on the location that works best for their needs.
MyARTS has become a haven for at-risk youth from every corner of the city, a place where they can explore and express their creative abilities, identify possibilities for continuing education and most importantly, dispel the myth that the larger world is forever closed to them. At the heart of MyARTS is the belief that skills equal power and opportunity. MyARTS has three goals, which provide teens with access to the things they need most:
1. A safe place where they are able to build positive mentoring relationships.
2. An opportunity to have a voice through working with MyARTS clientele and through their personal art shows.
3. The responsibility of paid employment that promotes their own economic development and acts as a springboard to post-secondary opportunities.
MyARTS East serves as a community center with the goal of nurturing positive change in the lives of at-risk youth and their families in the community they live in. MyARTS promotes cultural affirmation, social awareness, and community building to empower youth people with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to achieve their fullest potential.
The services provided by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office through MyARTS and STTAP have proven successful in achieving program goals. The program was evaluated by Cypress Research Associates and the following outcomes have been determined:
Decreasing use of marijuana and ‘hard’ drugs
Improving high school GPA
Improving youths’ attitudes about the future
Improving youths’ relationships with adults
Improving youths’ attitudes about work
315 N. Main St.
Independence, MO 64050
1522 Holmes St.
Kansas City, MO 64108