Ballet for At-Risk Youth

Watts is one of the poorestcommunities in Los Angeles. It has the highest percentage of families headed by a single parent, and one of the largest concentrations of gangs in Los Angeles County.

Kimberly McKinney is a probation officer at Nickerson Gardens and Imperial Courts in Watts, which are the biggest housing projects west of the Mississippi. She's been taking groups of probation youth on Create Now's Cultural Journey's program, so they can experience concerts and plays. 

When Kim brought some of these teenagers to see the Los Angeles Ballet, three of the girls fell in love with ballet and began taking dance classes. 

Kim remarked, "Two of these teenage girls taught ballet to six little girls at our housing projects, who now all want to be ballerinas based on what the older girls do. If it hadn't been for Create Now giving them the opportunity to see ballet, they would never have been exposed to that dance. Create Now is amazing. We really appreciate the kindness they show to underserved kids and those on probation.

Those teenage girls are busy now, so our volunteer Bianca Akula gave the children a ballet class, which they loved. Create Now will be providing the kids with more dance classes in the next couple of months so they can perform at our Talent Show this Spring. Stay tuned for more details about this upcoming event. 

Cultural Journeys

Every year, we organize artistic excursions for thousands of the most vulnerable kids in the region through our Cultural Journeys program. Recently, The Chainsmokers gave Create Now tickets for 30 homeless youth from Covenant House and the LGBT Youth Center to see their show at the LA Convention Center. The kids were blown away by the experience and said it was something they will never forget.

For most of the children that Create Now serves, it's their first time going to a live performance or a museum. Because of the abuse and trauma they have had to endure, they're often afraid to venture out into the world. These troubled kids can also feel very self-conscious and fearful that they won't fit in with everyone else. 

In 2016, we arranged outings to a variety of events. More than 1,500 children experienced Ringling Brothers Circus and Circus Vargas, plus the ballet, LA Opera, the Music Center, the Hollywood Bowl, plays at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Theatre West, Geffen Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse, Ford Amphitheater and diverse sporting events. 

The therapists, social workers, probation officers, teachers and other staff at the partner agencies in our network tell us that after attending our Cultural Journeys field trips, their youth are more focused and able to concentrate longer. They want to explore more of the world they live in, and discover the arts. Their confidence, motivation and goals are better enhanced.

Cirque du Soleil has been supporting Create Now since 2003. This year, they gave our youth tickets to see both Kurios and Toruk. Richard, from the LGBT Youth Center, enthused, "Thank you so much for the amazing night. I had never been to such an extraordinary event, and I'm just truly grateful for your generosity and thoughtfulness for us here at the center."

We ask the kids to create thank you cards and letters, which teaches them to express their appreciation and to develop their creativity. At the same time, our ticket donors are able to see the impact of their contributions first-hand.

Laura Schmieder, Director of iPalpiti Youth Orchestra, donates hundreds of tickets to Create Now each year for their performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall. She remarked, "One boy said he didn't want to come to our concert because he thought it would be boring, but he wrote, 'I would come anytime now to hear classical music.' That clearly made a difference. Thank you for collaborating with us."

Your donations make it possible for Create Now to bring thousands more of the "forgotten children" we serve to enjoy our Cultural Journeys.

Holiday Party for Disadvantaged Kids

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Create Now held our Power of the Arts Party on Saturday, December 3rd.

There were around 25 disadvantaged children ages 4-12 from the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts, Over 2,000 units are in this poverty-stricken, gang-infested public housing project - the largest one West of the Mississippi River.

Some kids also came from Human Services Agency in the San Fernando Valley.

Aaron Weiner taught drumming. Zach Sonnentag taught singing, guitar and keyboards. Brandon Johnson showed the kids how to make styrofoam snowmen, and jewelry designer Victoria taught jewelry making.

The kids had a blast! Through your support, each child received a toy. For children who may not get anything for Christmas, this was a very special treat.

Kimberly McKinney is a Deputy Probation Officer with LA County. Her job is to prevent children from joining gangs, while supervising those youth who are in gangs and committing crimes. Kim said, "We truly appreciate what Create Now does for our kids. There aren't any other organizations like them."  

11-year-old Anielle Morales said, "I really liked making bracelets and singing. My favorite part was playing the drums." 

Thanks to your support, Create Now was able to bring joy to the poorest children in the community during this holiday season.

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Musically Speaking

Create Now targets our arts programs on abused, neglected, abandoned, orphaned and homeless kids in the region. However, our school-based classes also reach the most disadvantaged children at Title 1 schools who receive free lunches, but no arts education. Our workshops help to prevent dropouts, poverty and violence.

The growth of literacy and math skills are the foundation for children to do well at school, socialize with others, become independent, manage money and work. But in 2015-2016, 52% of California's students failed to meet the standards in English, and 71% didn't reach the math standards.

Researchers have found that both musical ability and literacy correlate with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brain stem, and that an awareness of beats can influence the way children assimilate speech patterns, which can affect their reading and writing abilities.

Create Now has initiated our fourth year of collaboration with Youth Policy Institute by providing our programs in East Hollywood and Pacoima through the LA Promise Neighborhood initiative, which is sponsored by the Department of Education.

Last Fall, Master Teaching Artist Beth Sussman taught 135third grade students at Ramona Elementary School in East Hollywood Musically Speaking, which is based on the steady beat. Teachers reported that 100% of Beth's students showed great improvement in cooperation and working in teams. They also improved 100% in feeling more confident to raise their hands and share in class. This is in addition to tremendous acceleration of their reading fluency and knowledge of music terminology and notation. 

Beth's current Musically Speaking workshops are teaching 125 new children how to keep a steady beat through dance, singing and fun games that focus on history, logic, reasoning, critical thinking, language arts and math - all through the lens of music. She remarked, "On the first day, it was pretty exciting that many of the new third graders had already learned the warm-up song from last year's third graders. I'm often greeted by kids with 'Che Che Kule' - a chant from Ghana." 

She's been so successful that Beth is also teaching two classes of SDC (Special Day Class) children. Their teachers are amazed at the impact that Beth's classes have on the students, especially those with very challenging behavior and learning disabilities.

Beth remarked, "I focus on steady beat (for reading fluency and comprehension), patterns and rhythm (for fractions and division), and learning and applying musical terms to connect to reading and speaking with expression. One of the SDC children, Jordy, came over to me and said 'The music has a psychic power over me.' Another SDC boy, David, loves to dance and wants to become a Zumba teacher."

Watch this short video to experience first-hand the powerful affect of Beth's program.