Confident Voices

confident-voices

Confident Voices

SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young
247 West 37th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212.414.9696
Fax: 212.414.8527
E-Mail: info@SAY.org
URL: SAY.org

Focus: Music, Theater

Annual Number Participating: 250

Ages: 8–18

Annual Budget: $1,879,000

Funders: Common Sense Fund; National Endowment for the Arts; Newman’s Own Foundation; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc.; The Pinkerton Foundation

Imagine living in a city with more than 8 million voices. Now, consider the anxiety and frustration associated with not being physically able to get your words out. Children who stutter often feel isolated and ashamed. Many choose not to interact in school, which affects their academic and social skills. At present, there is no cure for stuttering. However, healing and support are available year-round in the Confident Voices (CV) program.

An initiative of SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, CV is a performing arts program that annually helps 150 underserved New York City youth after school and on weekends. (Camp SAY extends the program’s national reach to 250.) Fears evaporate as
young people learn to speak, sing, perform, direct, and write with confidence in a safe space. Exercises focus on good diction, breath support, and eye contact—all core elements of engaging in the arts and in life.

Individualized sessions average 100 to 130 hours of instruction, mentorship, and oversight during 8 to 10 weeks, while youth taking multiple sessions receive 200 to 220 hours. Teens with an extraordinary interest in writing and directing can enroll in the One-Act Play Program, which offers 50 additional hours of instruction over 17 weeks. Self-reflection and journaling are also essential activities. Every week, staff monitor each learner’s personal and artistic development. In addition, bimonthly evaluations assess the students’ strengths, interests,
and communicative goals.

Learners write scripts and compose music in collaboration with accomplished teaching artists and mentors well-versed in film, television, theater, and music. These lessons culminate in performances in small Off-Broadway theaters for audiences comprising friends, family, educators, and the general public. During moderated post-performance discussions, students share program-related experiences, accomplishments, and personal goals.

Under CV’s umbrella, the national SAY: Storytellers enables a published author-mentor who stutters to videoconference with several CV youth and guide them through the process of writing a personal essay. SAY publishes a book of these essays annually and makes it available to supporters and students. Recent participants led a reading at a prominent bookstore and shared their work aloud at Camp SAY, garnering much praise. Such exposure validates these young people’s public speaking ability and reminds us of the struggle these young people face.

By infusing the arts into their daily lives, students demonstrate increased confidence in their verbal communication abilities, ultimately strengthening peer collaboration and social skills. And, an impressive 95 percent of CV alumni pursue college, with many returning as volunteers. One thing is certain: When a Confident Voices student steps into the limelight—be it onstage, in a bookstore, or at Camp SAY—it’s a life-changing experience for the speaker and the audience.

SAY helped me develop the self-esteem necessary to find my own voice. Thanks to SAY, I now live each day with more confidence, whether it’s speaking in class or singing an original song. It’s been so life changing.

Julianna 16, participant, Confident Voices, a program of SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young