In 2016, Everett asked our youth leaders to gather a group of students and create a show about freedom. There were six youth leaders and at the end of the year there were six new shows about youth, their lives, and what the truth of their freedom is. Through these shows, Everett’s youth disclosed the trauma kids go through every day. Everett mashed up all six of the youth performances, creating a Youth Freedom Project. The Youth Freedom Project touched many hearts and got people to open up about their trauma. Everett audience members said that it felt good to see a show about pain they can relate to, and seeing youth be so strong gave them hope that they could persevere.
Soon after the Youth Freedom Project, Matt Billings from the Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC), a part of Brown University, contacted Everett to include us in a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant to implement CBITS (Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools ) in Providence, RI middle schools with elevated levels of trauma. The CBITS program was created and first used in California. Studies showed that the program worked and levels of trauma in the schools chosen decreased. The CYC will be partnering with Providence Schools, Rhode Island Student Assistance Services, The Providence Center, and Everett Company, Stage, and School. Everett will add arts into the program to further engage students.
The schools chosen for the program are Roger Williams Middle School, Delsesto Middle School, and Gilbert Stuart Middle School. Everett artists collaborated with each school’s clinician to work with youth with the highest levels of trauma. Each school’s faculty watched Everett’s Youth Freedom Project beforehand. This opened teachers and faculty up to the trauma their students face in and out of school. Teachers made comments such as, “Thank you, this reminded me why I wanted to teach and help youth” and “I have students this show made me think of.”
The CBITS program started the first week of January, 2017, at Roger Williams Middle School. Everett is now running the program in all three chosen middle schools. Through funding from SAMHSA, the CYC and Everett will be implementing the CBITS program in these schools for the next five years. Our goal is to spread our version of the CBITS program to as many schools as possible throughout Providence. Two of Everett’s artists, Aaron Jungels and Sokeo Ros, attended The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Conference, in Washington DC, on April 25, 2017. They presented all the work we have done with the clinicians to date and how adding the arts into the program further engaged the students. Everett was well-received at the conference, and there is clear interest on a national level for our arts-based adaptation of CBITS.