At the heart of YCA pedagogy is the idea that everyone is an expert of their own experience.

We begin by asking the question, “Where are you from?” The answer leads to an investigation of the worlds we inhabit, the places and people around us that provide ingredients for our poetic inquiries.


YCA’s programs all share a pedagogical tenet; they are designed to enable young people to examine the life they know and share their stories, so that others may learn from them. Poetry offers a natural on-ramp to storytelling and YCA’s teaching artists expertly use source texts and writing prompts that engage young people in the creative exploration of who they are. YCA’s artistic practice is steeped in the Chicago literary tradition of realist portraiture, drawing from poets, essayists, and lyricists, both time-honored and contemporary. Hip-hop music and culture have a significant presence in the body of work from which YCA draws.