It is known that, in today’s economy, schools are often forced to cut programs because they can’t afford to keep them in operation. Sadly, when this happens, the arts are often the first to go. However, one family in East Chicago decided that they were going to do something to bring art and music education to the kids in their community. This was the start of Leon Kendrick Youth Voices United (LKYVU).


LKYVU is a low-cost program offered to qualifying families who live in East Chicago. It is open to children ages 5-18 and has recently added a preschool curriculum for three- and four-year-olds.


The program provides a variety of classes for participants. The current summer camp allows students to experience all that LKYVU has to offer, including lessons in: art, dance, drums, and piano. Campers are split up into teams, based on their age group, and then rotate through the different classes together. Each class teaches age-appropriate lessons to the different groups.


“Having that outlet for them at this age is really important,” explained LKYVU art teacher Marissa Deleaylashay Kendrick. “Kids usually don’t know how to express themselves at this age and doing it through art helps them develop into who they want to be in the future.”


While the older kids cycled through the various classes, the preschool group got to practice each skill on their own in the early learning. In this way, even the very young students are being taught the basics of art and music which can go on to benefit them in their personal, educational, and professional lives. One of the instructors who worked with them is LKYVU co-founder and retired Northwest Indiana teacher Yvetta Kendrick.


“They’re going to paint. They take dance and they do the music,” explained Yvetta. “The plan is that parents will follow right along with the program and keep them going.”


LKYVU already offers East Chicago youth a variety of artistic options, but they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. In fact, the program is growing. Yvetta explained that they hope to incorporate a sewing class for students as soon as the sewing machines come in and Marissa mentioned that the program is looking for more volunteers to help everything run smoothly as the class sizes grow.


Serrita Davis, Project Manager at LKYVU, discussed all that the kids learn from the classes. She explained that the musical and artistic skills are just a part of it. Many children have learned to come out of their shells at LKYVU and be confident in who they are. Serrita is always implementing new projects and reward systems for the students to understand what they can do to be good community members and how they can see value in themselves.


To learn more about the LKYVU program in East Chicago, visit