Since 1991, Young Chicago Authors has been transforming the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication, and performance education.
YCA exposes young people to hip-hop realist portraiture and teaches them how to create their own authentic narratives through a variety of arts education programs both in and out of the classroom. These programs include free Education Partnerships for qualifying Chicago schools, free weekly writing workshops and open mics for young poets, journalists, and emcees, and Louder Than A Bomb, the largest youth poetry slam in the country.
In Chicago’s contemporary landscape, there is a desperate need for a space dedicated to the voices of young people who face violence and segregation on a daily basis, a safe place that provides a platform for youth expression and celebrates the narratives of teens from every corner of the city. Young creative people need mentors to guide their writing to a level that sparks real change in themselves and their communities. YCA’s programs serve as an introduction to and immersion in a vibrant literary community that transcends cultural and socio-economic boundaries.
Young Chicago Authors carries out its mission by focusing on six primary objectives that guide our work with young people. YCA’s programming is designed to serve these targeted, measurable goals:
Foster youth creativity and expression.
All of YCA’s workshops ask students to approach writing as experts of their own experiences. Young people have a lot to say and asking a simple question—“Where are you from?”—elicits profound stories that reflect the realities of growing up in today’s society.
Engage young people in cross-city dialogue.
YCA brings young people from diverse backgrounds together, surmounting geographic and cultural boundaries that serve to segregate Chicago. Every week, students from all over the city gather at YCA to listen to one another’s narratives. Each year at the Louder Than A Bomb Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, young people from 120 zip codes bring their stories to the stage to share with a wider audience. Together, young people are starting a new conversation about art, unity, and social justice.
Provide spaces for a youth community rooted in poetry.
Relationships begin at YCA based on a shared love of creative expression through the written and spoken word. Young people from different neighborhoods, who would otherwise have no way to connect, form enduring bonds.
Involve young people in an examination of the conditions of the city and the world.
YCA’s pedagogy is grounded in the belief that all people have important stories to tell. YCA is particularly interested in presenting students with the voices of artists who represent marginalized communities, engaging students in conversations about inequity and injustice.
Build critical thinking, reading, writing, and public speaking skills.
YCA reframes education for young people by using a fresh new approach to the literary arts in classroom settings, sparking achievement in language arts and social and emotional learning areas. YCA connects students to school-based poetry clubs, which strengthens the student-school relationship and provides direction for out-of-school hours.
Support early-career teaching artists as they become cultural educators.
YCA is an incubator for talented writers who have chosen to pursue a living in arts education. As members of YCA’s Teaching Artist Corps, these artists develop their identities as educators and mentors while simultaneously developing their craft.