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We fund organizations and projects which disrupt our current behavioral health space and create impact at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.

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Tia Burroughs Clayton, MSS
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Alyson Ferguson, MPH
Chief Operating Officer

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Vivian Figueredo, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

Derrick M. Gordon, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Georgia Kioukis, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Samantha Matlin, PhD
Senior Learning & Community Impact Consultant

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Caitlin O'Brien, MPH
Director of Learning & Community Impact

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Joe Pyle, MA

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Nadia Ward, MEd, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Bridget Talone, MFA
Grants Manager for Learning and Community Impact

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Philadelphia Young Playwrights

Philadelphia Young Playwrights

Philadelphia Young Playwrights Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Target Population:
Children and Adolescents

Nature of the Problem

Last year, 68% of students in the School District of Philadelphia scored at Basic or Below Basic levels for English, Language Arts on standardized PSSA tests. 27% scored ‘Proficient’ while only 6% scored ‘Advanced’. More than two-thirds of our students are economically disadvantaged. In the School District of Philadelphia, 89% of students are economically disadvantaged. Of the almost 2,100 students served through the Core Program, 1,300 qualify for free or reduced lunch and free textbooks. These youngsters, particularly those entangled in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; represent some of the most vulnerable populations in our communities. More juveniles have been sentenced to life without parole here, than in any city on the planet. The city has the highest rate of incarceration of the ten largest American cities; many incarcerated can point to experiences as children that inform their current situation. It becomes evident that youth are often the deepest impacted by incarceration, directly or indirectly. This particular social moment compels PYP to stop and think critically about the issues we address and scope of the work we engage in. One of the results of that inquiry is the development of a trauma-informed, healing centered curriculum.

Program Description

Residencies are tailored to each school and are designed to happen in concordance with their respective schedules and the needs of every individual classroom. Teaching Artists are trained in both the curriculum and in meeting the needs of the students in the classrooms using trauma-informed practices and skills. We want to add a distillation process to the work—where students can filter the raw ingredients that have emerged from reflection and re-imagine their use. The writing is one step toward that. But there is also the opportunity for a more holistic process that can bring about a fuller transformation. It begins with their bodies, and they can begin the distillation through embodied and contemplative practice—including various exercises that foster mindfulness and self-regulation. In fact, an argument could be made that the only way that this can be fully released is to do something that goes beyond intellectual processes, and touches something deeper. These practices enable people to recognize the stresses, tensions, and traumas they are holding in their bodies or thoughts. More importantly, they provide tools to help navigate rocky emotional states, identify and articulate their emotions to others, then begin to move through frustration, stress, and anger productively.


This curriculum is designed to complement our established residency framework, the augmentation of which would likely increase residency lengths. The project will require analyzing the existing curriculum and finding natural spaces to insert healing-centered or embodied practices. To that end, the pilot program includes a three-session training workshop for its cohort of Artistic Teams. These workshops will help to build safe space for all involved, solid rapport between classroom teachers and Teaching Artist, as well as a support network of peers. Teaching Artists will receive training to incorporate contemplative practices into their lessons and help students cultivate the ability to trust what emerges and process it into their creative work. The training gives the residencies a structure that allows for self-reflection and allows students to build resilience by connecting the skills they’re learning to other parts of their lives.


With encouragement of Executive Director, Lisa Nelson-Haynes and the board, Director for Education and Program Services, Mindy Early has developed a trauma-informed, healing centered approach intended to supplement PYP’s core curriculum. PYP is in the process of creating a new strategic plan, one which places this trauma-sensitive, healing-centered work at its core. Part of creating a script for a play or monologue means identifying a problem the playwright wants to solve. Similarly, we at PYP have been forced to stop and think critically about the issues we address and scope of the work we engage in. One of the results of that inquiry is the development of a trauma-informed curriculum. Understanding the need to approach young peoples’ mental health radically and holistically, PYP’s professional development curriculum contributes to the creation of an emergent network of individuals and organizations working to thoughtfully, imaginatively and holistically address the challenges youth face.


An enhanced professional development scheme will create a support system for Teaching Artists and classroom teachers (Artistic Teams) and further equip them with the skills to help students dive deeper into contemplative practice and create a support system for Artistic Team members. We have developed a comprehensive program that approaches students holistically. A program where they come away having created work they are proud of, but most importantly the skills to navigate their lives resiliently and share those tools with others. Data from this initial instance will be used to refine PYP’s Core Program of in-class residencies creating an even more dynamic program geared towards the development of emotionally healthy children. The information gathered will be of tremendous benefit to partners and like-minded organizations working in arts education, youth advocacy among many others. Professional development can be tailored and shaped to fit a wide range of youth-focused work.


We want students to come away with a stellar written and produced piece of art. However, in-line with our legacy and mission, our hope is for that art to have facility beyond the performance stage and the students’ participation in our programs. This is not art for arts’ sake or art that only benefits the artist as their creative outlet. Students walk away as not only artmakers but with a practice that translates throughout their lives to address issues, stresses and potential traumas they may experience. This project constitutes the first steps of moving beyond the classroom to help a greater portion of the region’s youth to understand their potential to radically re-frame their narratives, so naturally, it requires us to re-frame our metrics. We are looking for more students to come away, confident that they can face whatever challenges placed in front of them.