The Possibility Project, formerly known as City at Peace-National, had its beginnings in Washington, D.C. in 1994 as a local program created in response to the racial division and violence that was destroying youth and communities in our nation’s capital. Teenagers, artists, parents and community leaders came together to address these urgent and growing concerns.
Beginning with a group of 64 teenagers and led by then Founding Artistic Director Paul Griffin, City at Peace-DC produced its first show in that year. The performance and the program received rave reviews. “Nightline” featured the program in a special highlighting its accomplishments in June 1995. By 1996, the number of teenagers wanting to participate grew beyond expectations – over 250 youth tried out for the program that year. In response to this demand, City at Peace-DC began a second program in 1997 and grew to serve over 110 teenagers each year.
The local demand for the program in Washington, D.C. was matched by an increasing demand from other cities. Letters, e-mails and phone calls from individuals and organizations in various cities asked, “Can you come to our city and do that for our youth?”
City at Peace-DC began assisting communities that demonstrated a serious initiative in beginning new programs. These efforts gave rise to City at Peace programs in Santa Barbara, California, and an exchange project in Israel.
In 1999, City at Peace-DC began a planning process to consider scaling up to national scope. A team of national non-profit, business and foundation leaders convened to address the issues of national expansion. An HBO documentary entitled “city at peace” aired that year giving further momentum to growth. Headed by Founder & President Paul Griffin, Cities at Peace, Inc. (DBA City at Peace-National) was incorporated in New York in 2000 and received its non-profit status in 2001.
With a new national office in New York City, programs continued in Washington, D.C. and Santa Barbara, and grew to nineteen communities in Israel (a small number of programs continue there today). New local programs began in Charlotte in 2000, Los Angeles and New York in 2002, Baton Rouge in 2003, Cape Town in 2005, and Rochester in 2008.
Since our expansion began, our new programs have engaged over 2,000 youth participants, produced 56 original musicals witnessed by over 40,000 live audience members, and created more than 60 community action projects.
During this time of growth, our mission grew, too, into a broad youth development and social change effort. Our focus expanded to empower teenagers and improve our communities across a range of issues. Our outcomes grew from two to seven, our creative process grew to include leadership training and community action projects, and our program model grew to serve young people in foster care.
To reflect this growth and evolution, City at Peace-National changed its name to The Possibility Project on August 2, 2010.
The Possibility Project – Today (2010-present)
In addition to choosing a new name, we have taken on a new strategic direction, too. Our focus is now on the growth of our New York City programs. In other cities, we will partner only with existing organizations to create new programs. Our focus on New York City will allow us to innovate and grow new program models, like our foster care program, as well as provide a center of excellence at which our new cities can train and learn. By partnering with other non-profits and community organizations to grow programs in new cities, we will be able to grow more quickly, effectively and efficiently, and reach a greater number of young people in the future.
This year, The Possibility Project will include 130 youth in our three programs in New York City. With our partner organizations we will involve another 130 youth in four more cities (DC and Santa Barbara programs will continue to operate as City at Peace programs, independent of The Possibility Project). Together, our national network will produce 8 original musicals and undertake more than 30 community action projects.
For the future, The Possibility Project aims to continue to grow. Our goal is to engage more teenagers in our creative process and empower them to create better lives and communities. Because we believe these things – better lives for our teenagers, better communities for our world, and a better future for all of us – are possible.