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Poetry, Music, & Art
the Central Counties Youth Center

Our Poetry, Music, and Art programming at CCYC is an evolving collaboration between Ridgelines Teaching Artists and the Central Counties Youth Center, our region’s 5-county youth detention center.  We have piloted a range of programming at CCYC, including mini-concerts and workshops in songwriting. Our Small-but-Mighty Poetry Library took up residence at CCYC in the spring of 2021.


Kathy reflects on her time at CCYC:

“Teenagers have one foot in childhood, one in adulthood. If they're lucky, they haven't lost their playfulness. They are thoughtful about growing up, whether they fear or embrace it. If they still have that childlike hope, they want to improve the future. Any outlet we give them for safe expression must be beneficial and free of judgment. When I walk into CCYC, being a stranger is a gift. I’m there to learn about their values and interests and maybe teach them something. Each of my students receives a journal they may use between classes. I’m delighted when they return with journals they have filled on their own.”

Past programming at CCYC has included Youth Circle, a 3x weekly music exploration program led by musician Jonathan Bojan. Jonathan's approach is informed by many years of community teaching and collaborating. His work at CCYC relies on a number of circle-based improvisational music formats, including the traditional drum circle. Youth Circle programming emphasizes collaboration and self-expression, aiming to bring more relaxation to the CCYC community and to provide a constructive activity through which youth can enjoy each other and their own creative energies. Circle-based formats focus on exchanges of energy between people, so participants have a chance to develop communication skills, the ability to create and express themselves through music and poetry, and a sense of self-efficacy.

Jonathan notes, "I accepted the invitation to teach at CCYC with the understanding that I may be the one who is taught."


Previously, Ridgelines kicked off programming at CCYC in 2019 with Youth Songs, an interactive concert series designed and led by local singer-songwriter Eric Ian Farmer. This program drew our region's at-risk youth, Court-detained young people who have had significant trauma in their lives, into a circle of artistic community, creating new paths for communication and change. In bi-monthly concerts, Youth Songs provided a soulful opportunity for CCYC residents to interact with a model of music-as-self-discovery; to connect with an expert teaching musician; and to share their own stories. By cultivating social connectedness and access to the possibilities of creative agency, Youth Songs aims to strengthen emotional literacy and the diversity of our region's language arts.

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As of summer 2022, bi-weekly poetry and art programming at CCYC is led by poet and artist Kathy Morrow. In every class Kathy focuses on a specific poetry style and a few specific poets, and gives students an opportunity to create an original poem and often a work of visual art. She also leads students in browsing the Small-but-Mighty Poetry Library, paying special attention to books related to the theme of the day. They read the work of classic and contemporary poets near and far. Students receive a journal and are encouraged to keep writing after they leave CCYC. They are also encouraged to take a book from the library with them when they leave CCYC, and to leave copies of any poems they would like to share with future staff and students. The students explore literary devices and poetic forms through drawing, painting, collage and other visual art techniques. Class themes include found poetry, ekphrastic poetry, haiku, pastoral poetry, children's poetry, concrete poetry, free verse and spoken word.

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Youth Songs at CCYC is supported in 2020 by a generous grant from the Centre Foundation's Patricia Farrell Music Fund

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