Meet Isaiah: Changing lives through youth theater

Written by SAFE

It’s an exciting time of year as students in our community get back into the swing of classes! Thanks to the support of incredible people like you, many of our programs that work directly with young people are back in Austin schools, too.

For example: The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, a partnership between Creative Action and SAFE’s Expect Respect program. The ensemble learns about social justice and activism while creating an original play that explores teen relationships and encourages youth to take a stand against dating violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. And then they tour their play to middle schools in the Austin area to spark dialogue and advocate for change in their communities.

This inspiring program demonstrates how students can be leaders, impacting the lives of amazing students like Isaiah.

Isaiah came to us as an enthusiastic eighth grader 5 years ago. He was often getting in trouble at school for being too loud and disruptive, a symptom of his dyslexia. At Changing Lives he flourished, becoming our loving, positive, and generous Changing Lives “mascot.” He credits the ensemble for helping him through one of the most challenging moments of his life: when his father was incarcerated.

“The reason I kept coming back was the family feeling, and the change in myself,” Isaiah said. “When I started off, I didn’t know anything about the world and the program allowed me to grow and it felt good that I was helping them tell their story and make a difference… some of us need a space like [Changing Lives] to be who we are meant to be.”

Whenever someone new would enter the ensemble’s space – whether an adult facilitator, or new ensemble member – Isaiah would greet them with a big smile and an outstretched hand. Over the years Isaiah progressed from ensemble member to Peer Leader, elected to this position by his peers and directors, where he took on increased leadership, mentorship, and facilitation responsibilities.

Last year he was awarded the Texas Council on Family Violence Young Hearts Matter Youth Activist of the Year Award. He plans on staying in Austin, pursuing his plans to become a teacher. And this fall he returned to SAFE’s Expect Respect Program to work as an actor-facilitator for Where’s Your Line?, our interactive theater program for high school students that works to end dating violence!

Changing Lives

The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble is possible thanks to your support, the support of our community, and the many groups that we partner with. Thank you for making stories like Isaiah’s possible and for ensuring that every school year new kids can have access to these programs.

Right now, the Changing Lives ensemble is writing their annual original play, which they’ll then rehearse and tour to Austin-area middle schools in February of 2020.

Click here to bring their plays to your school!