I’m not sure what has me most speechless: the awe-inspiring, take-my-breath-away performances by incarcerated kids submitted for the PbS Kids Got Talent Contest or the fact that despite initial skepticism and grumblings about the difficulties filming youths in custody, more than 50 individual performances have been submitted. Wow.
Both the quality and quantity of the talent submissions are awesome. They tell me that youth justice reforms are happening, cultures are changing and PbS’ commitment to treating all kids as one of our own is beginning to grow roots.
Watching the field since PbS was launched 20 years ago, I know change is difficult and change takes time, resources, support and leadership. But I see agencies and facilities swinging away from the punitive mid- 1990s’ approaches to treating kids like kids, supporting them in their development and giving them opportunities to shine. And research shows it is working.
Encouraged by the many signs of positive youth development, for PbS’ 20th anniversary celebration we decided to push our 200 participating facilities to do something they’d not done before. We created the Kids Got Talent Contest and invited all youths in PbS facilities to submit recordings of their talents. We have received videos of singing, with and without instruments, original works and others’, poetry reading, rapping, dancing, instrumental music, video art, card tricks and sports tricks.
We keep learning over and over again that when we give kids an opportunity to do something right and recognize them for it, it’s followed by a wave of good results: youths are happier, relationships between youths and staff open up to trust and support and facilities become the learning, rehabilitative environments they are designed to be. Maybe the PbS Kids Got Talent Contest will start a tsunami!
- Written by Kim Godfrey
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