MA grad Jessie Atkins launches Street Arts

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The need for an art program for at-risk youth in Haiti and how it started    

In her capstone project for the Master of Arts in Global Leadership program, Jessie Atkins learned that arts programs were among the first to be cut when an NGO that supports at-risk youth suffers resource constraints. This leaves fewer positive outlets for the youth. She also learned through her research that this outlet can be helpful in supporting youth to overcome lived experiences of trauma, develop skills, generate income, and build confidence and self-identity.

She developed a proposal for an art program for a non-profit in Haiti.

Atkins saw the need to look locally for a self-sustaining model. She worked with her local partner organization, Streethearts Haiti, to visit art communities, local artists and suppliers. With her experience in business development, Atkins immediately saw opportunities locally for art to be sold to not only help create savings for youth, but also to help put money back into the art programs’ operational costs to create a self-sustaining model. The approach to program creation was to use feedback from the youth and NGO to create the program they dreamed of.

From this approach, Street Arts International was created.

Atkins graduated in June 2018 from the Royal Roads Master of Arts in Global Leadership program, receiving the Royal Roads University Chancellor's Award, Irving Barber One World Scholarship and the Eric C. Douglass Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies Scholarship.

Here is an update from Atkins:

"We have officially launched this month and are a registered not-for-profit organization in Canada creating local and sustainable arts programs for at-risk youth. Street Arts International partners with like-minded non-profits who support youth to help make their dream of having an art program a reality. We spend time engaging with the youth and a partner organization to identify the type of program they wish to create. We then use an asset-based community development approach to leverage opportunities that already exist at the project location to develop the program.

"Our first art program was launched in 2018 in northern Haiti with former street youth following my Capstone. Through this partnership, the youth now have an arts and crafts program, which includes sandal making and painting taught by a local Haitian painter and an arts and crafts teacher.

"We are very excited to be launching a second program for girls in 2019."