When Peggy Taylor looked around in the mid-1990s, she saw that personal self expression in youth was disappearing.
Taylor saw this to be particularly true in Seattle schools. In addition to less creativity by individual students, they were also isolated from one another.
“Even in culturally diverse schools, everyone kept to their own,” Taylor said.
Then along came the late Charlie Murphy, a man who shared her vision to use creative expression to build self-confidence and unify young people who were becoming more and more separated with the advent of media and technology. The pair banded together in 1996 and started ‘Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment through the Arts.’
For the past 20 years, the annual camp held at the Whidbey Institute in Clinton has helped foster youth development through creative expression. Its “Creative Community Model” is also being used by other similar camps around the country and world, including Oregon, California, Canada, Jamaica and Uganda. The camp draws 45 kids between ages 14-18 and is part of a non-profit organization Taylor and Murphy founded called PYE Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment.
“We wanted to prepare kids to walk fully in the world,” said Taylor, a 70-year-old Langley resident. “And not just being accepting; they would actually seek out people different from themselves. We felt here on Whidbey that the youth really needed these kinds of experiences.”
Jamie Rose-Edwards can personally attest to the success of Power of Hope. Rose-Edwards first met Taylor when she was 16 as a youth at the camp and was profoundly impacted by not only the event, but also by Taylor herself, who she called a role model and “world changer.”
“She’s been quite a steadfast and consistent mentor in my life and has influenced my personal and professional development more than just about anyone else,” Rose-Edwards said.
Rose-Edwards later became a camp manager and facilitator and was eventually inspired to use the creative community model to provide young women with diverse backgrounds with the same kind of inspiration and self-confidence that she received at the Power of Hope Camp. She came to Taylor with the idea, and the first-ever Young Women Empowered camp was held in 2010.
Young Women Empowered, also known as Y-WE, is dedicated to helping girls and women establish themselves as leaders in their schools, community and beyond through camps, workshops and programs throughout the year.
“It was her belief in me as a young woman leader that really led me to have the courage to start Y-WE,” said Rose-Edwards, who is also co-director of the organization. “She supported me and believed in my vision to start this organization.
Susie Richards, co-director of Service, Education and Adventure (SEA) who has collaborated with Taylor in the past, echoed Rose-Edward’s sentiments, adding that Taylor exemplifies the joy of being alive and unlocking inner potential.
“I think many people grow up with this attitude that ‘I’m not creative, I’m not musical, and not artistic,’ ” Richards said. “Peggy’s work blows that out of the water.”
The creative community model all revolves around the use of creative expression and how it can be used to build self-confidence and make vital citizens out of people who are otherwise shy or isolated from each other, Taylor said. She said a cognitive shift happens at around the age of 14 where a young person starts becoming more self-reflective and has the attention span to be present in a different level.
“This was a program where people were asked to reflect on their relationship with themselves, peers, to their community and to the world at large,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that by utilizing creative expression, it generates joy and gives people the capacity to become pivotal citizens who are not afraid to participate.
“Some people have a low image of themselves as creators,” Taylor said. “…One negative comment can ruin their creative expression.”
“Creativity is simply the ability to be able to think up things in your mind and make them happen in the world. It’s not a question of, ‘Am I creative?’ It’s like love. The more you use it, the more confidence you’ll gain to use it,” she added.
The next Power of Hope Camp is from July 22-29, 2017. To register, visit https://powerofhope.org/register-now/.