Description: The Creative Connections project joins formal mentoring and creative workshops through its innovative arts-based mentoring approach. Creative Connections mentors are caring adults who want to mentor a young person with a disability and are open to participating in creative workshops each month with their mentees. Being good at art is not a requirement for either mentor or mentee, but the Creative Connections team will note that the mentees really shine in the creative workshops. It is about participation and process, and not so much about products. Creative Connections provides mentors with a natural context for building the relationship with their mentee by creating together. Research has shown that participation in the arts provides an effective context through which to form relationships and provide mentoring for at risk youth with disabilities.


The overall goal of this project is to develop, implement, and sustain an evidence-based mentoring program for urban at-risk youth with disabilities designed to reduce the influence of risk factors (e.g. lack of commitment to school) and increase protective factors (e.g. access to support networks).  Additional outcomes include improved academic performance, access to community resources, and a decrease in the number of youth who offend/reoffend.


Project Contacts:           Derrick Willis, 816.235.6438,

Alexis, Petri, 816.235.5872,

Project Period:               2012-2014
$35,000 (FY2014)
Funding Source:            
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Applied Research/Evaluation:
The UMKC-IHD is responsible for creation of reporting instruments, tracking logs and surveys, data collection, and reporting.  IHD trains project staff in the use of the tools, and produces annual reports of the findings. A final evaluation report will be generated from the data to support project reporting related to OJJDP performance measures and other associated outcomes. Core Functions

Community Services and Supports: Creative Connections develops and enhances cross-system community networks and partnerships that embrace and respond to the needs of urban at-risk youth with disabilities. IHD’s contributions to the project complement roles undertaken by its partners, including ArtsTech, Jackson County Family Court, and Storytellers, Inc. IHD utilizes a train-the-trainer model to equip ArtsTech staff to lead mentorship development activities.

Information Dissemination: IHD designed evidence-based curricula for Creative Connections mentor trainings, and produces annual reports. At the culmination of the project, IHD will develop an evidenced based toolkit of replication materials and resources including: Mentor Training Curriculum, Guide to Providing Family Support Resources, Guide for Infusing Mentoring into After School Arts Programs for Youth with Disabilities, and a Lessons Learned report.  The purpose of developing these materials is to support replication by others within other regions of the state or country.

The project results and the replication toolkit will be disseminated through multiple means.  One primary means will be through the development of a project website that will provide online access to the toolkit as well as other project information.  In addition, information and products will be disseminated through meetings/conferences and publishing results through journals, newsletters, and other means.


Program Need and Historical Context

The target population served through this project is at-risk youth with disabilities ranging in age from 13 to 18 who reside in the urban core areas of Kansas City.  At-risk youth with disabilities will include two distinct groups. The first group includes youth with disabilities who are directly referred to the program through the juvenile courts. This group includes youth with disabilities who have engaged in some form of delinquent behavior. The second group includes youth with disabilities who have experienced disciplinary actions in the schools they attend and are at risk for engaging in delinquent behaviors.


According to the 2010 Jackson County Family Court (JCFC), 66 of the 289 youth, or 23%, for whom a Social Assessment was completed had a diagnosed disability that included learning disabilities, behavior disorders, emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities, autism, or other conditions. These numbers do not count the numerous other offenders whose disabilities have gone unreported.


Consumer and Community Involvement

To date, 45 mentor-mentee pairs have participated in Creative Connections in an ongoing basis. The mentors come from many career backgrounds, not necessarily the professional arts. Existing relationships with the following organizations play an important role in volunteer recruitment efforts and specialized mentor training: Crossroads Community Church, 100 Black Men of Greater Kansas City, Crossroads Arts District, Storytellers, Inc., a multimedia nonprofit artist group; the Downtown Council, Seton Academy, The Whole Person, KC, KS Community College, and Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA).


Institute’s Role

  • Evaluation of MFP Demonstration Project outcomes
  • Leadership in development and evaluation of a DSP training and credentialing system
  • Monitoring changes in state funding and budgeting policies
  • Providing feedback and information on methods to improve services and supports to MFP participants



  • Mentor Training Curriculum
  • Guide to Providing Family Support Resources
  • Guide for Infusing Mentoring into After School Arts Programs for Youth with Disabilities
  • Lessons Learned annual and final reports



System:  Development of a new, replicable model for integrating traditional mentoring program models with an arts-based relationship building platform.

Personnel:  An increase in personnel, staff and volunteer, with the knowledge and skills for providing leadership and mentoring of youth with disabilities. 

Leveraging:  Improved regional, state, and national access to evidenced-based mentoring models and programs through published reports, curricula, toolkit and website.