ConTextos launched in 2011 to transform traditional, rote education into dynamic learning environments that promote deep-thinking, engaged dialogue, and expression. Working in El Salvador, "the homicide capital of the world," students who were exposed to this new model of learning began to share their unique ideas, opinions and experiences, engaging in dialogue and debate. And they demonstrated the natural human instinct to share their real lived experiences, in conversations and writing – stories that navigate the violence and trauma of poverty, migration and gangs.
Authors Circle (Soy Autor in Spanish), an intensive writing and social-emotional learning program, was developed to foster healing and reflection amongst victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of violence and trauma. From schools and communities, ConTextos quickly expanded into juvenile detention and gang and civilian prisons. The published works from these Authors, individuals whose stories and experiences often ignored, are then used to train teachers, law-enforcement, and thought-leaders about the real challenges and sentiments of some of the most vulnerable young people in the Americas.
Authors Circle consistently demonstrates significant improvements in empathy, self-projection and literacy skills. To date, ConTextos has served over 45,000 youth in the Northern Triangle.
In 2016, ConTextos was asked by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to bring Authors Circle to Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOD) as part of his vision for criminal justice reform. ConTextos adapted its programs to meet the needs of Chicago’s violence and trauma-exposed youth. In January 2017, after twelve months of planning with CCDOC staff, ConTextos became the first outside educational program to work with detainees awaiting trial for violent offenses in maximum security Division 10. Since then, we have expanded into schools and community-based organizations, working with youth and the young-at-heart who are engaged in workforce development, re-entry, alternative-sentencing and other initiatives.