Spy Hop receives $25,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Spy Hop has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This prestigious recognition will support our Sending Messages program, which has been empowering at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system to tell their stories creatively through podcasting since 2010.

Amplifying Youth Voices
Sending Messages is a perfect example of our mission in action: to empower young people by providing them with the tools and confidence to express themselves and share their stories. Through this unique podcast series, students in Utah’s youth corrections and residential treatment facilities have the opportunity to write, record, and produce personal narratives, poetry, short fiction, spoken word, and interviews. Students in this program are directly mentored by Adam Sherlock, our Director of Learning Design.

Fostering Connection and Growth
From NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD:
“Projects like Sending Messages: True stories from youth in Utah’s juvenile justice system, exemplify the creativity and care with which communities are telling their stories, creating connection, and responding to challenges and opportunities in their communities—all through the arts.”

Commitment to Collective Liberation
Our Executive Director, Kasandra VerBrugghen, on the impact of Sending Messages:
“Sending Messages is designed to inspire curiosity and develop youth voices, mindsets, and future-ready skills. It demonstrates our commitment to strengthening our anti-racism efforts and building a community reflective of our commitment to collective liberation.”

Program Impact
Throughout the year, multiple cohorts of 8-10 young people from residential treatment facilities and secure care work with Spy Hop mentors for ten weeks, dedicating three hours per week to create individual audio pieces released online as podcasts. On average, 3-4 episodes are produced annually, featuring 4-6 individual student works in each episode.

The $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts is a testament to the vital work we are doing by empowering youth through media arts education. With the support of this funding, Sending Messages will continue to provide a platform for at-risk youth to share their stories, fostering connection, growth, and positive change within their communities.

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