Allstate Awards Grant to Adventure Stage Chicago's 'Trailblazers' Mentor Program

Northwestern Settlement's Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) has been awarded a grant from Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) in support of its Trailblazers youth mentorship program.

As a company committed to serving low-income and diverse audiences, ASC and its parent organization, Northwestern Settlement (The Settlement) collaborated with the EmcArts Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to eliminate silos between arts and social services for low-income youth. With the addition of Allstate's support, Trailblazers continues to be the most directly impactful of these initiatives.

"Allstate's leadership support will enable us to double the number of youth who can participate in the program," said Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins, ASC Managing Director. "We are thankful for CEO Tom Wilson's vision to continue to empower the youth of Chicago through Allstate's immense charitable giving."

Trailblazers currently operates year-round, pairing professional theater artists with over 25 young people ages 10-15 to create art inspired by the members' experiences, empowering them to be the storytellers of their own lives. Mentor artists are ASC teaching artists and members of the company's ensemble who instill theatre skills and guidance as well as foster social-emotional development and creativity in a safe space. Youth exercise problem-solving skills and are empowered to follow their own ideas with mentor support.

"The Trailblazers program was created to inspire young people to become their best selves through theatre-making and self-expression. Young artists learn how to collaborate creatively, build self- confidence and become leaders in their own lives," said Allison Latta, ASC Associate Artistic Director and director of the Trailblazer program. "Allstate's donation expands the Trailblazers program to reach more young artists in the 2016-2017 school year. We know our Trailblazers will go on to make the world a better and brighter place. For that, we can all be grateful."

The Trailblazers program structure has a rigorous curriculum and assessment model with rubrics that measure dramatic arts skills, critical literacy, ensemble (valuing the voice of the group and of others), and social skills (valuing interpersonal and group interactions). Assessment highlights from the most recent session include: average willingness to lead increased by 73 percent, self-awareness increased by 32 percent, and self-confidence increased by 40 percent.

Original productions are presented during the school year and summer sessions, at ASC's professional 299-seat Vittum Theater. Trailblazers embark on story sharing and ensemble-building activities, theatre exercises and games, workshops with area arts partners, and field trips to cultural locations. Storytelling becomes the means to safely and openly discuss sensitive issues and culminating productions have tackled pressing themes such as bullying, loss, grief, and neighborhood violence. As the program has grown, ASC has increased outreach so youth participants are performing for their peers in addition to their families and friends. To ensure accessibility for our diverse and low-income audience, attendance is free.

ASC Trailblazers presented its fifth mainstage production, "Unspoken," at the Vittum Theater, 1012 North Noble Street on April 29, 2016 at 7PM and April 30, 2016 at 4PM.

The Northwestern University Settlement House opened its doors to its neighbors in 1891 in order to provide an opportunity for a better future. The Settlement's success results from a commitment to treating every person who enters its doors with dignity and respect, while supporting them with transformational programming designed to interrupt the cycle of poverty. The Settlement has adapted its programming throughout the past century in response to changes in the community, economy and society. The Settlement has led the way in innovative programming by offering residential science and environmental education for inner-city youth, launching successful charter schools and adding a theater so children and teens have a forum for expressing their life experiences. The Settlement's Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) is one of the only theaters in Chicago to develop and present works specifically for the middle school-age audiences. Adventure Stage Chicago creates and tells heroic stories about young people, to engage the community and inspire everyone to be a hero in their own lives. Visit www.northwesternsettlement.org for more.

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