Stories of Transformation

Refresh Collective is a nonprofit that cultivates tomorrow's change-makers through self-expression and skill building in Cleveland and Cincinnati.  Youth and adults learn to powerfully express themselves by making music and creating t-shirt designs. Artists develop creative, interpersonal and transferrable employment skills as they write, produce and perform their work. Here are just a few stories to share with you how much impact you make through your support.

Student Spotlight: Ericka Stewart

This talented student has been with Refresh for almost 2 year—first joining our Mural Art Class; then attending our After-School Fall 2022 classes; and most recently being one of our Fresh Force summer interns. This summer, Ericka appeared on FIVE songs on our Fresh Force Album, "Breaking Out The System," and performed at venues such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Beachland Ballroom! She even stepped up to teach “Hip-Hop History” during our summer job internship program, teaching her fellow students about the life & career of the great Nas.  She has been able to build wide variety of skills with us: music, murals, lyric-writing, acting, collaboration, leadership, and more, all fueled by a deep love of hip-hop.“Refresh has proven to me and everyone that my voice matters and my music can bring change. Refresh has allowed me to express myself along with helping me grow as an artist.” —Ericka


The Road to Recovery

Letitia began working with Refresh in April 2022 as an intern in our recovery program. In her words, she was "looking for a new life." She started interning with two weeks of sobriety and no community in Cincinnati. As life brought her ups and downs through phase one of her recovery programs, Refresh became her safe place to vent, cry, and celebrate in a judgment-free environment. Because of the recovery-friendly environment and relationships fostered in our print shop, she was able to step out of her comfort zone and gain work experience and skills. Today, Letitia has found her new life. She is on staff at the Refresh Collective print shop, embroidering orders, making sales, and coordinating events. She is also actively pursuing a college degree and celebrating 15 months of sobriety.


Creative Communication Skills

Lil Kili has worked with Refresh Collective since 2019. As a Ugandan immigrant who arrived in Cleveland in 2018, and as a lover of hip-hop music, Refresh was the very first place that he ever began recording music with others. 2023 will be his second "Fresh Force" summer job program, and he is a regular attendee of both after-school programs and our many performances across the city. As someone for whom English is a second language, Lil Kili has not only strongly developed his lyric-writing skills at Refresh but has also expanded his portfolio to include acting and video production. 

At Refresh programs, he has directed a sketch comedy, appeared in a short film inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis, and helped design clothing. He most recently performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Refresh Collective, and since his first Fresh Force program, he has secured a video production internship using the skills he has developed at Refresh Collective. He has credited Refresh with helping him learn professional software, such as Final Cut Pro X and Logic, as well as better computer skills overall. He wrote, recorded and produced this testimonial video.