'Sad to see it end:' Nonprofit 'Express Yourself Milwaukee' closes its doors

’Sad to see it end: ’ Nonprofit ’Express Yourself Milwaukee’ closes its doors

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After nearly 20 years of inspiring Milwaukee youth, a local nonprofit is closing its doors.

It was a bittersweet day for everyone at Express Yourself Milwaukee. Sadness because it’s all ending, but celebration for all the youth that this program has helped.

It’s a party on the streets of Milwaukee, but this day-long celebration is about saying goodbye.

“It’s kind of sad to see it end like this but if we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out with a bang," said Ajaiven Knight, senior at North Division High School.

For 19 years, the nonprofit Express Yourself Milwaukee has empowered at-risk youth through art, music and creation.

Knight said the program has kept him out of trouble.

“I love playing African Drums but I also love being around our community," he added.

For sophomore Tiyonna Duckworth the program gave her space to dance and learn important life skills.

“Having teamwork, being able to hear each other out, taking in new ideas and stuff like that," Duckworth said.

“Our work is about normalizing and giving access to kids to their own creative resources within," Express Yourself founder, and art therapist, Lori Vance, said.

Vance said the decision to shut down was not easy, influenced by a lack of program funding, but also a shift in youth care.

“I feel that the whole conversation has really shifted to trauma-informed care instead of punishment, and really holding kids accountable but also really understanding the complexities of what happens to kids," she added.

But Vance feels the group has already planted seeds that will help Milwaukee County youth get the mental health support they need.

And the celebration isn’t over yet. Express Yourself’s final show and performance is tonight (Friday 12/13) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 1300 w. Fond du Lac Avenue, third floor.

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