SEARCH- LIGHT: Lessons from Youth, Art & Healing in Chicago

Praxis Institute
5 min readJul 18, 2022


“It is a collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”

(Dalai Lama)

Social & Collective Awareness- Unifying Self with Community

Overview of Week 2

For Week 2 of SEARCH, our fellows became more comfortable with the space, continued to deepen relationships and build group cohesion.

Week 2: Social and Collective Awareness

“After we go internally, we begin to go beyond self and think about why it is important to be a part of the community. And this week has been about thinking about self in relation to others, and why that is important in the world.” SEARCH Facilitator

Activities and the First Healing Circle

A few activities that were facilitated this week include Defining self with crayons and a feather, Wings Project and Public Health 101: What does a Healthy Community Look Like.

Healing Circles

This week we led our first Healing Circle. Our healing circles have been a transformative experience for both our fellows and facilitators.

“I think the healing part of this week was the most important, I don’t usually take time to think about parts of myself that need healing. It was nice to have time to think about that and hear what others had to say as well.” — SEARCH FELLOW

“The circles open up the space and change the vibe for the whole [program] experience because you end up so much more connected to people around you. You know more about people you’ve been vulnerable with and all those things are so important for meaningful connection.” — SEARCH Facilitator

Healing Circle #1: Bring A Special Artifact

For our first healing circle fellows Fellows were asked to bring a personal artifact that has special meaning and share out:

  1. How does the personal artifact connect to your identity, person you love(d), or your experiences?
  2. Say aloud the name of a person or people who you are bringing in the space with you today.

The healing circle allowed our fellows and facilitators to collectively heal in a safe space and find commonalities in our journeys. Fellows and facilitators were then split into dyads (groups of 2) to answer prompts:

  • What is your happy place, when you feel at your most free and where you feel physically and emotionally safe?
  • Share the name of a person who has been influential in helping you understand the world around you. How did this person influence your perspective? What did you learn from them?
  • What is one part of your identity that gives you pride in who you are? What about this part of your identity gives you pride? How does it serve you in challenging or difficult times?

In addition, we had a mini birthday celebration with cake and dancing to remind ourselves that every moment, big or small, deserves to be celebrated with the community.

Knowing when to Step In

Many of the SEARCH facilitators are also licensed therapists. Being a facilitator and therapist can look different even though the roles intersect. We often talk about knowing when to provide direct support vs. allowing Fellows to process on their own.

“Because we’re doing so much personal work, it’s likely that they [fellows] are going to be touched in some way that they weren’t expecting. I’m finding myself in those personal moments wanting to engage my therapist self…[however] SEARCH is more about the fellows learning from their own experiences and what this means for them while also allowing myself to be present for folks who need me as a therapist.” — SEARCH Facilitator

Week 2 Reflection from Youth Participants

At the end of each week we ask all youth participants 3 simple questions:

  1. What did you enjoy most about the week?
  2. What are 1–2 things we can do to improve your experience?
  3. What was the most important thing you learned this week?

During week 2, Fellows continue to feel more relaxed and open to learning more about themselves and others. Here is what they had to say…

“I have enjoyed having different conversations with people who are different from me.” — SEARCH Fellow

“Outside of this space I deal with mental health [issues]. Coming to this space kind of helps. Getting out and talking to people helps a lot.” — SEARCH Fellow

“I learned that healing cannot truly be done by addressing surface level issues. You have to help a person holistically, giving them tools and strategies that will help them better their lives overall.”

Areas for Improvement

This week was our first introduction to offline work. SEARCH fellows are required to complete 5 hours of offline work:

“This week was very heavy on offline information/content. The videos and articles felt a little inaccessible because of the vocabulary used. I had to reread and rewatch each one a few times to understand what was being stated.”

Sample Activity from Week 2: I am and I am going to be

This activity symbolizes our connections with people. It allows participants to visually understand the impact of the interactions and relationships that we develop throughout life.

Steps to complete the activity

  1. Form a circle.
  2. There is a big spool of Yarn. Each participant must take the spool of yarn and answer the prompt: I am ____ and I am going to be ____.
  3. Once they have answered the prompt, each participant holds on to their piece of yarn and throws the rest of the yarn to someone on the opposite side of the circle to form a web.
  4. Continue until everyone has answered the prompt and has a piece of yarn.
  5. Once everyone has answered the prompt, untangle the yarn to form a circle.
  6. Lead a reflection exercise at the end to make meaning of the activity (MOST IMPORTANT)

If you are interested in receiving the step-by-step instructions for any other activities or have additional questions about the why, what and or how of SEARCH please reach out to



Praxis Institute

Praxis integrates theory and practice to engage, empower, and embolden communities to be agents in the creation of their individual and collective wellbeing.