Red Hill non-profit seeks to inspire teens through technology, the arts
For Derrick Whitmore, 1999 was a life-changing year.
As a freshman engineering student, Whitmore felt a redefined purpose in life following the massacre at Columbine High School that April. And he used the event, perpetrated by two teenage boys, as a catalyst to not only change his college major, but to guide his future in reaching out to at-risk teens.
“The shooting was that final confirmation for me,” he said. “Columbine High School reminded me very much of the high school I had graduated from in terms of demographics, suburban location, and look of the building itself. I said to myself that could have easily happened where I went to high school. And therefore, [it] could easily happen anywhere in the country again.”
Several years later, after establishing a career as a Bechtelsville youth pastor, Shattered Studios was born.
“I wanted to help teens with depression; we noticed across the country teens were involved in self-injury, suicide. I was involved with three suicide cases myself. It was getting huge and I thought, ‘Someone has to do something about this,’” Whitmore said. “I specifically decided to use the arts to start up Shattered Studios.”
The theme at Shattered Studios is a message of hope, and while it is faith-based, Whitmore said everyone is welcomed, no matter what their background or beliefs.
“We want to see broken people restored, broken dreams re-imagined and broken worlds renewed,” he explained. “We want to encourage every teen that they have a gift, a talent. What are they doing with it? Everyone has a legacy both left for them and that they are leaving. They can use those gifts to help other people.”
Shattered Studios serves as an umbrella organization for three different facets – Shattered Ink, Shattered Silence and Shattered Walls. Students from Upper Perkiomen, Boyertown and other area school districts are taking part.
Through Shattered Ink, a production team creates and adapts resources and other tools to help people explore their full potential and to share their faith message.
The student team is currently working on a graphic novel titled “Legacy,” which sports a popular super-hero motif. Other projects underway include a card game, dance/drama program and musical pieces.
Shattered Silence, the organization’s mentoring program, not only provides mentors in their particular interests to help teens grow in their artistic expressions, it also provides opportunities for the teens to reach out to others.
This year, the students involved in Shattered Silence are working on structural repairs and improvements to the Upper Perk Community Life Center, a community center based in East Greenville that features music, a bar-alternative café, games and special events.
On the team’s radar for this year is lobbying to create a community center in Boyertown, as well as working with the Bally Community Center.
Whitmore said Shattered Silence also supplies mentors in areas like cooking, welding and dance, to allow teens to “investigate their talents.”
Shattered Walls, the third piece of the non-profit, involves partnering with churches and organizations on outreach projects and the like. In addition to working with the community centers, they also do events like inspirational speaking engagements including one this July at Harvey Cedars Bible Camp in New Jersey.
For the teens involved, however, it’s all about the artistic outlet and the camaraderie.
Boyertown Area High School 2013 grad Jarrett Benz has been partnering with Shattered to develop an online podcast involving video games. Benz uses the podcasts to relay inspirational messages.
“I want to give hope to other students who feel they are trapped in bad situations,” he noted, detailing his own past. “I want to encourage them because they’re not alone and there is help. I feel like I’ve received that kind of help from Shattered and from Derrick [Whitmore] specifically for situations I’ve personally been involved in.”
President of Shattered Studios’ board of directors, Mark Hager of Bally, said Shattered is just the kind of organization the community needs.
“It’s a great thing to get involved in to see what we can do for that age group. I believe in using every tool you have. Some students are reached through sports like dodgeball. But everybody uses the arts; it’s very universal,” he said. “Teens can create and produce amazing things. As the director of a community center myself, I see a fair amount of kids without a future picture for themselves and that’s sad to see. They can do amazing things.”
Some of those amazing things will be on display for the community to see, Whitmore said, at a Nov. 7 art show at the Upper Perk Community Life Center. The show, “Reflections,” will feature photography, graphic design, paintings and other media by area students, starting at 7 p.m. The free event will have light refreshments available.
For more information on Shattered Studios, contact founder and executive director Derrick Whitmore at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website, www.shatteredstudios.net, or their Facebook page.