UBU Project Residency Explores Substance Abuse Prevention through the Arts at Cactus Shadows High School

Published: March 15th, 2019

Happy Youth Arts Month! The arts can be a powerful vehicle to understand our world and ourselves. They can improve student emotional well-being by providing the healing skills to express our truth and listen openly creating a sense of community and belonging. Today for Youth Arts Month, we are highlighting a story of a residency program that happened this year at Cactus Shadows High School CSHS exploring substance abuse prevention through performance. How might the arts improve school climate & contribute to student well being at your school?

The UBU Project led an arts integration substance abuse prevention residency at Cactus Shadows High School in the Cave Creek Unified School District. Over the course of five weeks, three groups of students worked with musician David Simmons to create a student-led, peer-mentoring substance abuse prevention performance piece. The outcome was a 30 minute script including four completely original songs all created by students. The piece will be presented to the entire freshman class later this year. Creating an original piece gave these kids a wonderful feeling of hope and purpose. By the end of the residency these brave, new artists were sharing aspects of themselves they’d kept hidden for years due to fear, shame and self-loathing all brought forth by their willingness to take a chance and create as a team.

Lauren Pilato observed the way students connected to each other and the challenging subject matter of the residency,

“…an amazing workshop enabling students to find their inner voices, allowing them to be heard. Through this program, we watched in amazement as students struggling with substance use and abuse, LGBTQ identities, family and home life, as well as many other life experiences, were able to connect with the program. Students are given a chance to use the arts to tackle difficult subjects and discuss their feelings openly. As a result of this residency, our student groups created four completed songs with lyrics written solely by them collaboratively. All songs have one thing in common, which is that they exude a message of hope. As a culminating activity, a script was written which highlights the words and thoughts of the students working on the project. It will be presented for our ninth graders by our student performers.” -Lauren S. Pilato, Prevention Coach, Cactus Shadows High School

Here is an example of a song lyric created by these students. This song, a heavy-metal tune entitled “Break That Cycle” has also been arranged for concert band and choir and will performed next fall as part of the CSHS “Red Ribbon Week” celebrating substance abuse prevention in the schools. This tune is the finale’ of the script they created:

Break That Cycle, (By CSHS Falcon Pride Academy, 5th period)

 

VERSE 1: I felt hopeless, worthless, trapped in my mind

Being knocked over ev’ry single time

Give me a break for once, just be kind

Obliterate my box, I’m not a mime

 

PRE-CHORUS 1: Break that cycle, I’m runnin’ outta time

 

CHORUS 1: Talking to people: Something better!

Drawing I feel: Something better!

Makes me not stress: Something better!

I have hope, that is something better!

 

VERSE 2: Think I might drown, Reaching for ground

Stumbling around, waiting to be found

I am bound, feeling like a clown

Bring myself up not drag myself down!

 

PRE-CHORUS 2: Break my cycle, my heart is pounding!

 

CHORUS 2: Talking to people: Something better!

Walking in nature: Something better!

Makes me not stress: Something better!

I have hope, that is something better!

 

BRIDGE:  Pulling, pulling, pull myself up

Holding, holding, holding on tight

Pulling, pulling, pull myself up

Holding, holding, holding on tight

 

PRE-CHORUS 1: Break that cycle, I’m runnin’ outta time

 

CHORUS 3: Talking to people: Something better!

Spitting out my rhymes: Something better!

Makes me not stress: Something better!

I have hope, that is something better! 

 

VERSE 3: Do you have something better in mind?

Do not fall, learn how to climb!

Why should you be stuck in a bind

Here’s something to do with your time

 

PRE-CHORUS 3: Break your cycle, get out of that grind!

 

CHORUS 4: Talking to people: Something better!

Music! ….: Something better!

Makes me not stress: Something better!

I have hope, that is something better!

 

CHORUS 5: Talking to people: Something better!

Petting fluffy dogs: Something better!

Makes me not stress: Something better!

I have hope, that is something better!

 

PERFORMER 3 (speaks during riff): Sing it with us, “I have hope, that is something better!” Here we go; 

 

ALL: I have hope, that is something better!

 

Have a great youth arts story to share in your school or community? Email us at [email protected] or tag us on social media with the hashtag #AZYouthArts