Create Now has been providing a variety of arts programs to Vista Del Mar for over eleven years. This residential facility located near Culver City has been serving abused, neglected, abandoned and orphaned youth for more than 100 years. Most of these teens are dealing with severe emotional and behavioral disorders and are at high-risk of hurting themselves and others.
They are rated Level 12 and Level 14 by the DCFS. Vista Del Mar is one of only two facilities in the State of California that is qualified to handle these tough cases. If they can't help these children, then the kids need to be institutionalized in a locked-down mental health hospital. Around 60% will end up homeless later in their lives.
Over the years, we have implemented workshops there in Jewelry, Improv, Screenwriting, Zines, Create a Mural Now, Intro to Art, and Cultural Journeys. The kids especially love our Dance workshop, which is taught by Kat Palardy.
Mirilia, age 16, remarked, "I come from a bad home, but the dance classes have kept me distracted from all the negative activity that I've been through. It brings light into my life!" Kat exclaimed, "I learn a lot from the kids. You need stuff like this."
Our Writing workshop, taught by Kaitlyn Hybl is also popular. She starts the teens off writing free-style, which brings up a lot of emotions. Then she leads them in fun games that have them roaring with laughter. For instance, they have to create stories by using every letter of the alphabet in chronological order.
Kaitlyn shares, "We do a lot of team bonding exercises. I want to expand our workshop into songwriting."
Rehab Specialist Lionel Ruff explained, "Most people aren't familiar with what these kids go through in terms of abuse. This writing class helps them channel their emotions positively so they can be productive members of society."
Karen Vines, a long-term Rehab Specialist said, "Volunteers from Create Now help give the shy kids a boost and make them feel welcome. It shows them there are people out there who care about them that don't get paid to care."
Create Now also provides a number of these teens with an Acting workshop that is led by actor Simon Man. Each week, they play improvisational games that give them the opportunity to laugh and let off steam.
These youth are able to bond with their staff and each other. They form deeper friendships as they build self-respect and more confidence.
Lionel stated, "Some of these kids deal with high anxiety and different forms of abuse at home. This workshop is bringing out a lot of their talents that usually lie dormant. It's fun and lighthearted and lets them show off their talents like singing, dancing, and acting." Jasmine shared, "It makes me feel silly and funny at the same time and I smile a lot. I'm learning how to be more loosened up."
Simon observed, "I've seen some wonderful changes. It's a real joy and incredible to see. My goal is to create an atmosphere that is non-judgmental so they can discover a loving relationship with themselves."
Simon has expanded the lessons to include acting techniques, plus character and scene development. They're all having such a great time!