One of Excelsior Youth Center’s newest recreational programs, Rhythm and Life, is changing the way girls view themselves and the world. This creative program originally started as a group for our Community Based program that uses dance to change the lives of young women who have struggled with substance abuse. Rhythm and Life’s success and popularity during its first session incited Excelsior to expand the program to all of our at-risk youth who struggle with substance abuse, both Community Based and Residential clients. Giving young women something positive to be passionate about can be life-changing because it inspires them to dream big and look forward to the future. Likewise, the group allows the young women to develop a bond with each other that encourages positive choices.
Rhythm and Life meets for ten week sessions, every Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-6pm on the Excelsior Youth Center campus. While the group primarily focuses on dance, the girls also use poetry, song, positive raps and motivational speeches to inspire creativity and change. This allows the girls to create positive pieces that they feel define them and with which other girls can identify. In addition to creative channels, Rhythm and Life participates in female empowerment activities, motivational conferences and college tours. Additionally, all participants volunteer in the community regularly because Rhythm and Life coaches want to instill in the girls the importance of giving back.
Recently, the Rhythm and Life group held a professional photoshoot at Gunther Toody’s. Professional makeup artists and hairstylists worked with the girls, making them feel special while exposing them to potential career options. This powerful and therapeutic event encouraged the girls to express their own unique beauty and be proud of who they are. Dressed up in 50s-inspired costumes, the girls proved to themselves that they are admirable young women with troubled pasts, but bright futures. Most young women suffer from low self-esteem, but girls with traumatic histories especially struggle to feel good about themselves. The tasteful photos from this event help enhance self-worth and teach the girls about true beauty – a real, attainable beauty that challenges the messages sent everyday by the media. Throughout the photoshoot, the girls felt empowered by their unique personalities and backgrounds, and went home with photo reminders of how beautiful they are, inside and out.
Photography Credits: Andrea Gerstenberger
Hair and Make Up By: Joi Johnson, Jennifer Sexton, Joseph Tyler Pierce