Success Stories

Art and Technology Impacting Community

Hafsa, age 12, DAVA Job Training student

DAVA offers consistency within a safe, creative and challenging environment where youth are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and dreams. Hafsa, age 12, is a refugee from a rural village in Somalia. When she first came to DAVA’s Job Training program, she had never worked on a computer. She was soft spoken, but focused and excited about the chance to have a “job” and a place to belong outside of school. For her first art project, she created her story in a simple computer game. In her piece, she walks through Africa and then Aurora. She could not find pictures of her country without war, so she chose other more peaceful images of Africa. Months later, she can be found chatting with 5 other Somali girls she has recruited to Job Training and working on a new project designing a “swimming park” using 3D computer software. She is thriving with the tools and freedom to express her ideas, busily re-framing her life through the arts.

Growing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Hiram, age 14, DAVA Job Training student

Hiram, age 14, joined Job Training because he was trying to avoid getting into trouble with a gang of neighborhood boys. He quietly blended into a team working on a wood sculpture project. After a few weeks, he asked if he could come to Job Training and volunteer to help out, even on days when his class did not meet. Humble and friendly, Hiram was soon leading projects for younger students. He started to open up to his Job Training instructors, seeking guidance and change. Staff recognized his leadership potential and nominated him for a Rotary Youth Leadership Award last year. He spent a week at leadership camp fine tuning his skills, which he practices daily as a new DAVA Junior Staff assistant. He recently reflected, “My favorite thing about DAVA is the fact that I can learn so many new skills. I learned how to use new tools and make a lot of different art projects, and I learned how to really work with detail.” Hiram is candid about what DAVA means to him, thankful for a space of his own outside of the pressures of family, school, and peers. Today, he can often be seen wearing a suit jacket to class so he looks “more professional,” poised to become a great leader for the future.

Opportunities for Change

Julian Wakefield began in DAVA’s Computer Art Lab at age 12. He was then selected to be Junior Staff, working as a special assistant in our programs through high school. Julian will quickly testify that after-school programs kept him off the streets and out of trouble during peak youth crime hours. What began as a choice to do something fun after school led to a 10 year relationship with DAVA and staff mentors that literally changed the trajectory of Julian’s life. A graduate of Aurora’s Central High and recipient of the 2007 DAVA Scholarship for Excellence, he is currently a junior in graphic design at the University of Colorado Denver. In his award acceptance speech, he spoke of the importance of having access to a place like DAVA, “this involves me, and you, and everyone…I had a choice to wander or a choice to expand and create personally and for others.” Julian continues to volunteer helping kids in DAVA’s  Open Studio. He also represented DAVA at a fundraiser attended by 800 people, speaking about how the arts changed his life, “You just don’t forget your roots, you don’t forget where you came from.”

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Job Training student Hiram designs a model Hybrid creature by a Job Training student Eh Kaw creates a paper fashion dress Babar painting by Berenice