School’s Out for Summer

School’s out but we stay busy!

US teaching artists & volunteer performers prepare for a Page Play at Camp Gonzales, June 2017.

The LA Model – Arts Education & Juvenile Justice Reform

US Executive Director Melissa Denton with AIYN partners touring Campus Kilpatrick, fall 2016.

As a founding member of the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN), The Unusual Suspects is honored to be the first arts organization serving the newly renovated juvenile detention facility, Campus Kilpatrick as part of The LA Model, a collective effort to realize a more therapeutic, holistic treatment of youth during incarceration.

  • Developed in partnership with LA County Probation, the LA County Office of Education, the LA County Arts Commission and many community-based organizations, this shift toward a more rehabilitative approach for youth in the juvenile justice system invites resident teaching artists to have a seat at the table to better address the specific needs of our incarcerated youth, including reentry into their communities.
  • In addition to prioritizing academic engagement, the model recognizes the value of the arts in juvenile justice reform. The re-designed Campus Kilpatrick now includes a theatre, scene shop, and control booth where incarcerated minors can perform for their peers and families, build sets, and learn about other technical elements of a theatrical production.
  • Beginning in August, The Unusual Suspects’ first 3-month program will include in-class and after-school workshops. Then in October, we will hand off instruction to another AIYN partner organization. To ensure continuous arts access for the youth incarcerated at Campus Kilpatrick, this process will repeat throughout the year.
  • The first Unusual Suspects teaching artist assigned to Campus Kilpatrick is currently training with Probation Officers to learn about their approaches, strategies, and best practices.

The LA Model is an innovative approach that will require flexibility and patience. Executive Director Melissa Denton remarks: It will be very important for us to be truly collaborative with these partners. There will be a lot of voices in the room, and that is sometimes hard, but by using the elements we teach the kids in our own workshops, we’re certainly up to the challenge.

Did you know we place Volunteer S.T.A.R. Mentors in all our after-school programs?

Join US for the 2017-2018 school year! 

Mentor with US

Better storytelling with data? We think so!

As we grow, making informed decisions is essential for US. Thanks to a grant from the Ahmanson Foundation, we are investing in two new databases to strengthen our organization from the inside out — Little Green Light for constituent management and Apricot for program evaluation. We’ve collected a lot of data over 20 years and are excited to take a deeper look!

Little Green Light will help US communicate with YOU, our partners and supporters, by better organizing the history we’ve shared! Not only does this new database make our staff more efficient, but we are eager to strengthen our relationships by giving you more of the stories & information you want, when you want them.

Meanwhile, Apricot will house years of program data, like participant demographics and survey results, allowing US to easily generate reports illustrating our impact. Having this analysis at our fingertips will strengthen our program design and implementation. It also helps us convey the impact of our programs to current & potential supporters which is essential for continuing our work.

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Meet our Summer Suspect …

Maggie Jorgensen is our 2017 summer Impact Evaluation intern funded by the LA County Arts Commission. During her 10-week internship, she will work with US to design and implement an alumni survey to evaluate the long-term impact of our programs. Entering her final year at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and Television, some of her previous accomplishments include co-founding the Dually Noted Theatre Company and volunteering for organizations such as Coach Arts & Big Sunday.

Where In The World Are The Suspects?

We’ve been busy working to strengthen our programs and spread word of our work! 

Wednesday, April 19th … Caroline and Ariella were discovered attending Arts Day, organized by Arts for LA, at City Hall.
Monday, May 15th … Meisha and Ariella were glimpsed in a “Communication for Results” training provided by the Dwight Stewart Youth Fund and Hershey Cause Communications.
Tuesday, May 23rd … Nick was spotted at a meeting for The Unusual Suspects’ latest grant from the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs.
Friday, June 2nd … The whole team was found at our Glassell Park office participating in a training provided by partner organization Somos Familia Valle.

The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company believes every young person deserves to be seen, heard and understood. Through collaborative workshops, we work deeply to empower the hardest to reach communities to tell their stories together leading to self-discovery, a sense of belonging, and the building of stronger families and communities.

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