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Emerging Leaders Expressive Arts Program for Refugee and Immigrant Girls

The Emerging Leaders Expressive Arts Program has evolved from a pilot introduction of Expressive Arts to reduce violence at Burncoat Senior High School in 2004-2005 for the Student Conflict Resolution Experts (SCORE) Peer Mediation Program. The need to de-escalate anger allowed students to seek help. The students found the process so helpful that they lined up at the door to the mediation room, asking if they could paint their feelings so they wouldn’t physically fight and be suspended.

Adolescence is a time when teens establish behaviors, develop lifestyles and models of relationships that can have important consequences for their health and well-being as adults. The choices teens make are significantly impacted by how they view themselves and their relationship to the world around them. The Emerging Leaders Program supports teens to develop healthy and valuing behaviors. We offer a model wellness and social success that supports their academic life.  The purpose of EAL is five fold:

  • To support at-risk teens to become comfortable with a healthy process of using art materials to affirm innate gifts and strengths and change unhealthy destructive behaviors.

  • To write a mission statement for their life vision.

  • To teach self-management skills of emotional responsibility, leadership and self confidence as well as to remove barriers to learning for their academic success.

  • Offer possibilities for peer leadership and social change for the community by giving the students an opportunity to demonstrate their work in an Art Show.

  • To offer a model program for a culturally diverse Worcester.

Student comments have included:

  • “I found this exercise to be very peaceful and relaxing. I felt a peace while painting. I could do this all the time. This was helpful because it is an extra way to help me sort my stress instead of being angry.” -High School Boy

  • “Painting my feelings is helpful to me because color helps me express myself in another way than just talking and it helps me think about who I really am.” -High School Junior Girl

  • “This activity really helps me go deep into my inner thoughts and feelings and helps my body and mind take over to actually express how I’m thinking and feeling. It really does help and you don’t even know it!” -High School Junior Girl

  • “It helps you get in touch with your inside!” -High School Junior Girl

The EAL program invites at-risk teens to use art supplies, image and color to address angry, anxious, fearful and vengeful feelings and access healthy images in a pre-arranged stress management group with a counselor. The most needy teens benefit. The group and one-on-one follow-up will prepare teens to deal with their emotions in a healthy way by changing unhealthy, destructive patterns and helping them become responsible citizens in a culturally diverse Worcester.


© 2012