Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community. Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.
Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24. Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually. Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system. Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty. Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills. Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community. The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony. Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring. A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.
Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding. The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm. The Van Go website is http://www.van-go.org/.