Turning pain into power: foundation collaborates with Alverno College using art therapy to inspire teens

NOW: Turning pain into power: foundation collaborates with Alverno College using art therapy to inspire teens

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – There are many tools for healing. For some, a tool can be through art and creativity.

Students from middle and high schools across Milwaukee were given new inspiration through a special presentation at Alverno College.

Milwaukee native Jamar Jackson-Wilson created the Battle Scar Kids Foundation in 2016 to promote healing from trauma.

"We created this project about animated superheroes, about how you take your pain and turn it into power, which is loosely based off of my own story of losing my eye in a firework accident," Jackson-Wilson explained. "I wanted to take my pain and turn it into power through animation and creative arts."

The visual art project became his outlet. Now, through the foundation, he's able to spread his message further.

"I wanted to do this to inspire other kids - no matter what happens to you, no matter what you go through, even if it's in your own house, how do you still strive for the best life you could possibly live," he said.

It's a way to teach teens about the ability to overcome challenges, and how creativity can help.

"In the last year, we've been just going around to schools and hospitals and showing people the projects, showing people the animation, and we have the Battle Scar Kids foundation, where we do a lot of initiatives, social and emotional learning," Jackson-Wilson said.

Jamar also hosts workshops with other creatives.

During his presentation at Alverno College, students from their art therapy program took the stage.

One of those students is Drea McAlister, a junior art therapy major.

"Art therapy is wellness and healing using creative arts, and I just want everybody to be able to have that experience, that positive experience, in the same way that I did," McAlister said.

She first learned about art therapy at 11 years old, when she experienced an illness that impacted her motor functions.

"During that healing process, I was offered art therapy as a way to kind of regain my strength in my arms and things like that." McAlister said.

The benefits were inspiring.

"Through that process, my love for art kind of developed, and I wanted to help people heal," she explained.

Drea shared that story with the students, relating to the Battle Scar Kids Foundation's motto of turning pain into power.

Then, students were able to try art therapy for themselves.

"We led an activity that was based in the same thing, physically drawing your power with scratchboards," McAlister said.

"At first, we had a lot of, 'I don't know what my power is,' or 'I don't know what to draw,' so the prompt that I gave them is, who in your life do you consider powerful. When you're feeling down or you're feeling sad, what motivates you?" she explained.

It was a simple activity, but one that Drea hopes will inspire kids to embrace creativity and perseverance.

"I really just hope that we conveyed the message that you can do whatever you put your mind to, that anything is possible no matter what the barrier is," McAlister said.

Jamar has that same hope.

"'I embrace my frailties, therefore, you can't make me feel inferior about myself.' That's a quote that I love, and it helps me to embrace who I am, and be everything I want to be," Jackson-Wilson said.

He will keep spreading the Battle Scar Kids message across the country, but stopping in Milwaukee is particularly special.

"It means everything, because these schools that we visit are schools that either I went to or my friends went to, so to be able to come back and re-invest into their lives is everything," Jackson-Wilson said. "It's a way to give back to the city. I love where I'm from, and I want to show love to our city."

Click here to learn more about Battle Scar Kids.

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