The Hilltown Youth Performing Arts Program is a community-built evidence-based arts program, providing intensive training, artistic/professional skill building, and leadership development for underserved rural youth in Western Massachusetts. The newest initiative, Hilltown Youth Recovery (HYR) Theatre, is a strength-based, holistic recovery model providing performing arts experiences for youth overcoming trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders and/or other behavioral health challenges. HYR teens are valued as artists not patients. Such recovery spaces for community-building are crucially important for rural communities, where harm-reduction support networks are often geographically sparse, and individually issolated.
Objectives & Methods:
This CBPR project seeks to evaluate an established innovative arts-based program tailored to rural youth who are in one of the many stages of recovery. Twenty-two in-depth, semi-structured podcast interviews were conducted with youth participants and student-faculty (ages 14-24) within Hilltown Youth Recovery Theatre. COVID era interviews occurred through winter 2022. Podcast editing/dissemination, qualitative data transcription, and data-analysis were conducted by the youth-led research team, facilitated by researcher-allies. Utilizing innovative tools such as Re-Cast podcasting for data collection, these shared recovery narratives and connections are increasingly important during COVID inorder to build community and discuss current programming /education. Acting as a qualitative data collection method and providing evaluation tools for future research, Re-Casting aims to reexamine and articulate broader programmatic capacity and sustainability.
The programmatic aim is to develop a meaningful podcast series that informs the future directions of Hilltown’s program, empowers program graduates to impact future participant-led programming, and engages members of our community(s). This qualitative study assesses the efficacy of podcasting as a capacity-building tool by re-casting agency and social capital by program participants. Termed “Re-Casting”, HYRT’s digital story-telling podcasts are developed/deployed to re-calibrate both the individual and community stakeholder’s real and perceived autonomy; increased agency and capacity building are first-order outcomes. For youth in recovery, society all too often tattoos and imprints negative power images upon their bodies and psyches. A CBPR approach disrupting stigma and misrepresentation advances a strength based holistic recovery model. Youth-led and youth-designed, Re-Casting uses adult allies to assist in production, apply editing techniques,and facilitate thematic organization. Placing the arts at its epicenter, Hilltown utilizes performing and experiential arts to effectively address behavioral health challenges. Re-casting furthers these core values within a narrative interview context, and youth-led data collection/analysis.
Results, Conclusions, Implications:
The results of the Re-Cast podcast series are immediate through the production and dissemination of community building storytelling around youths’ recovery narratives. The Re-Cast podcast project also holds stories that can point to a youth-led programmatic evaluation and capacity-building needs assessment. Additionally, these podcasts are a qualitative dataset, illuminating spaces where Hilltown Youth Recovery Theatre’s arts-based program(s) can grow.
This community-based participatory research (CBPR) project worked with adolescent stakeholders, student-faculty, and staff of an arts-based recovery program to design, produce, edit, and disseminate a podcast series about the program and youth narratives of recovery. Utilizing collaborative youth-adult ally working groups, the Re-Cast series was identified as being useful to both community(s) and affiliated researchers/directors.