Deep Center’s framework is trauma-informed and culturally responsive. We promote a roots-cause model of youth development that works on three parallel tracks: direct service, systems change, and narrative change. Deep lifts up youth and their village, advocates for just policies, and disrupts dehumanizing narratives with firsthand stories about youth healing, growing, thriving through individual growth and collective action.
Deep meets young people where they are, at their joys, unique funds of knowledge, and community literacies to celebrate who they are, challenge them to express themselves powerfully, and support their critical awareness of how their stories intersect with their neighborhood block, their city, and the world beyond.
Deep Center’s pedagogy is assets-based, encouraging participants to use their lives, families, and communities as the primary source material for their original writing, artwork, and leadership activities. Our organizational place in the communities with which we work is defined by the values of inclusion, transparency, and institutional humility. We listen. Our teaching writers and artists reflect this humility: they and all adult stakeholders who enter our learning spaces are in the room with youth as co-learners and fellow writers and artists.
Project-based learning: Deep’s youth programs have original curricula that use project-based learning models. At workshop end, youth see their best writing published in a beautifully bound anthology. The promise of seeing their words on the printed page and in the hands of readers is a powerful draw for participants and a point of pride on the day the books arrive. Published anthologies are circulated at Live Oak Public Libraries.
We foster original, vivid, and fearless creative writing. Deep youth write in all genres and are not limited in terms of content or language. They are told again and again that “your stories are enough” and encouraged to see the value and power of their unique experiences.
Live readings and community celebrations: Deep hosts numerous annual live readings and community celebrations that give diverse Savannah audiences, often as large as 600 for single events, a chance to see Deep’s young authors read their work on stage and honor their accomplishments.
The work of youth and adult participants is heard by thousands annually. Our live readings are some of the city’s most diverse and fun cultural events. Audiences gain a new respect for youths’ creativity and ideas.
Changing Savannah and Harmful Systems: Deep’s events and publications ensure that youth from working-class, marginalized, and over-looked communities are heard and valued. At a time of abundant negative narratives about young people, Deep’s youth disrupt the stereotypes, challenge bias and structural inequities, and create the possibility of change.
Deep pushes beyond the barriers that keep communities from coming together for change, and we work on the assumption that storytelling and culture have the unique power to create spaces where people can meet heart-to-heart to learn, connect, create, and have hard but life-changing conversations.
To build our village we are reaching outward to forge cross-sector partnerships with people and institutions eager to see things differently. We are building a youth leadership pipeline grounded in creative writing and connecting youths’ learning to their lives and the issues affecting their neighborhoods. And we are fostering community cohesion through arts and learning spaces that invite a surprising mix of participants of all ages—youth, parents, artists, urban planners, historians, and community leaders—to write, reflect, envision change, and celebrate culture.
Deep Center’s evolving model is intersectional and inclusive. Writing, art, and culture are the tools we use to encourage people to step outside of their institutional silos, individual biases, and neighborhood boundaries, honor diverse perspectives, embrace a state of learning and listening, and make change.
Deep Center is a leading innovator in the field of creative place-making, place-keeping, and, when necessary, place-breaking. We consider stories the fibers of culture and culture the fabric of community. By ensuring that marginalized youth and their families know their stories, tell them well, and understand how those stories fit into the past and present, Deep Center uses art and culture as a core strategy to invest in and strengthen communities.
Through innovative partnerships with institutions such as the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority, the Chatham County Juvenile Court, and Healthy Savannah, Deep is using arts- and writing-based participatory action research to empower young leaders as researchers, to provide actionable data that institutions can use for community development, and to make sure that when policy- and decision-makers have consequential conversations about young people and their communities that youth are at the table and able to share their hearts and minds.