DAVA provides a consistent, long-term, location for kids ages 3-17 to feel safe and supported. Specific issues we approach through the arts include the same primary challenges faced by our refugee and immigrant student population: new language, new school, and new social systems. At DAVA we offer innovative and inclusive approaches to developing communication skills, teamwork, and creativity—all identified as critical to the 2lst century workforce. DAVA’s method increases communication skills; it promotes a sense of agency and identity and furthers connection to community.
DAVA has developed a trusted model for youth engagement that increases protective factors and fosters a sense of personal health and well-being. After twelve years of prevention funding in 2007 we received a national NASADAD award for innovative prevention programming and in 2014 the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for excellence.
DAVA youth are 64% Hispanic, 13% African American, 14% white, 6% multi-ethnic, and 3% Asian. Our entire student population is impacted by their proximity to Colfax Avenue, which has a metro-wide reputation for criminal activity. Area youth are at-risk due to social factors including poverty, high rates of transience, gang involvement, exposure to drugs and alcohol, and low community attachment. 87% of DAVA youth are part of free and reduced school lunch programs, and 60% are ESL learners.
DAVA teaching staff delivers a progression of creative learning opportunities that position young people as leaders. Programs have grown to include cutting edge curricula that enhance linkages between artistic learning and frequently expressed youth interests in peace, in cultural connections, and in their local community. Additionally, DAVA excels in keeping pace with technological advancements and integrating those tools into artistic work, using a method that captures research and dialogue along with the material rendering of ideas into form. These opportunities are free to young people during the school year with expanded hours over the summer. DAVA is seen as a stabilizing influence in our community, using the arts to build bridges that will help achieve progress for children and youth.
DAVA’s work is also guided by a commitment to evaluation and to demonstrating that the types of outcomes we track are of value in measuring positive youth development through aggregating data within an alliance of nationally recognized Creative Youth Development agencies locally. For example, in 2015, our ongoing use of the Youth Outcomes Toolkit (analyzed by the National Research Center) showed that 88% of young people felt that being in DAVA programs helped them to have more respect for young people of other cultures, races or ethnic groups. Additionally, 74% said that being at DAVA helped them feel they are "better at handling whatever comes their way." Accountability and the consistent tracking of youth development related to social and emotional learning is key to our collaborative efforts with schools, mental health resources, foundations, and families.