Since 1988, Raw Art Works (RAW) of Lynn, Massachusetts, has been serving kids from ages seven to 19 and transforming their lives via art as a form of therapy. Now heading into its 30th year, the organization is as strong as ever and enthusiastically welcomes new volunteers to continue its mission of changing the lives of Massachusetts’ youth.
“RAW was started in 1988 to provide art therapy to youth incarcerated across the state’s juvenile detention system,” said co-founder and executive director Kit Jenkins. “This method of asking, ‘what’s really going on in your life?’ helped these young people reveal to us and to themselves the root causes of their behaviors. And thus allow a way to truly address issues and begin to change those behaviors.”
Jenkins and her co-founder, Mary Flannery, created a space with a bold mission of igniting, “the desire to create and the confidence to succeed for underserved youth,” according to Jenkins. “We believe that kids need to be seen and heard and that everyone has a story to tell.”
Since its founding, RAW has served more than 50,000 youth in Lynn’s Central Square location and throughout the city’s public school system. With six studios, RAW offers art, digital film, and other forms of expression that allow youth to create pieces that channel their energies into productive projects.
“I started going to RAW when I was 16,” said Yesenia de Leon, 26, who is a 10-year alumnus of the program. “I heard they had film classes there and I was already heavily involved in TV production at Lynn English High School, but wanted something that I could do after school with friends. I turned to RAW because it let me explore my creativity in a safe space, and I couldn’t find that anywhere else.”
The caring and engaged adults at Raw Art Works not only gave de Leon an artistic outlet but also provided a network for her to pursue her goals. Their mission of engaging and mentoring youth is vital and de Leon attests to the positive influence of caring adults. “They gave me the tools I needed to be confident and apply to colleges,” she said, noting that she graduated from Emerson College. Today, she’s a web developer and UX designer.
Supporting the work of RAW, whether through mentoring, making a donation to help keep programming free, or even renting the artistic services of the organization can go a long way in shaping the lives of youth like Yunior “Crispy” Crispin Valdez. “They acknowledged the potential I had and noticed the difference I can make considering my strong dedication to improve as a person and to help others,” said Valdez of the support he received.
RAW staffer Hebert Labbate said the following about your potential impact with RAW: “The work that RAW does is a statement of who we are as a community. By choosing to engage youth that may have been forgotten or written off by society, we reassert the fact that human neglect is not an acceptable social policy. . . .it is refreshing to be part of an effort that creates unity in our community.”
Be a part of the lives of Massachusetts’ youth. To support the work of RAW, volunteer to be a mentor.