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"The vision for CAE is to replicate its alternative learning and training system on a global scale, beyond organic growth, to reach underserved communities in need. This approach addresses the entire economic and social development spectrum, with the ultimate goal of promoting systemic cultural transformation by providing comprehensive services and solutions.”


- B.J. Pleasant, Founder & CEO

Community Arts Experience (C.A.E.) 501(c)(3) charitable organization is a coalition-based mentoring arts academy dedicated to empowering individuals to transform culture.


C.A.E. delivers a resilience-promoting alternative learning and training system that offers children and youth ages 7-17, families, and adults the opportunity to learn, gain skills, and develop a strong sense of values, ensuring their success and well-being across generations.


C.A.E.'s person and family-centered systematic approach to resilience and vulnerability create a foundation for students to pursue their career and life goals by aligning and integrating trauma-informed SEL (social and emotional learning) practices, arts-infused education, and workforce preparation efforts through an equity lens. 


The organizational structure of C.A.E. comprises four service divisions to equip students for leadership and societal influence for the common good. The common goal within each division is to empower C.A.E. students to become curators and connectors of knowledge and well-being.

  1. Arts & Culture Division

  2. S.T.E.M. & Media Division

  3. Health & Wellness Division

  4. Workforce Development Division

Each service division offers various arts-infused learning pathways to achieve a personalized learning experience that aligns with participants' personal and professional goals. Specific models that include trauma-informed practices, cultural and civic engagement, workforce development strategies, entrepreneurial development, character and leadership development, and family engagement capacity building are woven strategically into each service division.


C.A.E. service offerings are built on the following four dynamic pillars:


  • Responsive & Positive Interventions & Supports:

    • Offer a safe and fun-filled professional environment.

    • Value academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs.

      • Address children and adult mental health issues, including toxic stress, anxiety, and depression, particularly in the wake of COVID, by providing direct access to in-house licensed professional counselors.

      • Employ substance use disorder support, resources, and intervention strategies for children, families, and adults.

      • Foster and maintain resilience through school and community collaborative relationships.

      • Integrate a coalition-based approach in mobilizing faith and community leaders to leverage knowledge and resources, find efficiencies to meet individual student needs, and enhance service delivery system coordination.

      • Eliminate policies and practices that retraumatize

    • Generate cultural capital and strengthen a community's character, inspiring reflection to form connections that transcend differences.

    • Employ data-driven decision-making on all levels.


  • Person-Centered Approaches to Learning:

    • Support students as active participants whose thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are appreciated and considered. And most of all, empowered to become full participants and decision-makers in their learning process, recognizing that each has a unique learning style, communication, relationship-building, and decision-making skills based on personal attitudes, social skills, and intellect.


  • College Planning, Workforce, and Entrepreneurship Development:

    • Focus on college & career exploration activities and experiences.

      • Through life and career action planning, incorporate multiple pathways to carry young people from elementary school to adulthood.

    • 21st Century Skills Development (Adaptability, complex communication skills, non-routine problem solving, self-management, and systems-thinking.)

      • Accelerate students’ ability to develop, apply, respond, interview, search, engage and manage employability essentials for jobs & career opportunities.


  • Parent & Family Engagement Mandate:

    • Provide family capacity-building enrichment activities and access to family-supported resources and services.

    • Perpetually refine corporate strategies with community partners to address education and social needs to enhance outcomes for children and families.



Learn more about our history here.

B.J. Pleasant founded C.A.E. in 2008 in response to the lack of alternative learning programs, poor academic performance in schools, and rising violence in Stark County, Ohio. Recognizing that underserved children were most affected by these issues, C.A.E. set out to provide a coalition-based mentoring arts academy focused on a three-prong family, school, and community engagement approach.


Initially, C.A.E. offered performing arts and business management programming for youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Through our program delivery and analysis of student performance data, C.A.E. identified skill gaps that the Organization was uniquely equipped to address. This data showed an overall average increase of 34% in Science, Reading, and Math performance testing results, a 5% increase in attendance rates, and an 11.4% increase in positive student behavior. Building on the success of its program implementation, C.A.E. later expanded its reach to impact a broader range of services for children and adults between the ages of 7 and 55+ with the skills and training needed to compete in a technology-driven work environment.


In 2014, C.A.E. recognized the high prevalence of mental health issues such as trauma, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, caused by the impact of significant industrial closures during the 1980s. In response, C.A.E. expanded its services to the county and began implementing trauma-informed practices for its staff to build on participants' strengths and address the community's specific needs. As a result of this approach, C.A.E. became a certified trauma-informed organization in 2020, equipped to provide effective support and services for individuals and families impacted by trauma, substance use disorder, and other mental health issues.


C.A.E's experience with alternative learning led the Organization to explore how community professionals could collaborate to create a significant education and support hub for developing non-traditional strategies that would best benefit individuals in need of training and support services. Over the past decade, C.A.E. has refined its coalition-based approach to mobilize community professionals to engage in public action and volunteering to address issues such as high crime rates, high unemployment rates, high drop-out rates, chronic disease, mental health, and substance use disorders.


Today, C.A.E. provides its participants with a variety of arts-infused online and on-demand services delivered in a flexible schedule and small group setting. Experienced and professional instructors from our communities work closely with youth and adult learners to help them make informed educational decisions that align with their academic and career goals. This approach ultimately leads to positive changes in the community's economic, cultural, and social landscape. In addition, C.A.E. provides case management services to its participants, supporting them with the necessary social and emotional support for healing and overall well-being across generations.


C.A.E. partners with local businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies to provide access to childcare, transportation, affordable housing, mental health and substance support services, food accessibility, and education resources to improve the quality of life, family, and community. 


To honor our rich history and to guide our activities in the future, we, the directors and staff of C.A.E., embrace the following guiding principles:


To be a leader and a model in programming and operations, we will embrace appropriate risk levels and foster an entrepreneurial spirit informed by inquisitiveness, due diligence, creativity, and responsible stewardship of our assets.


We remain true to our mission and work hard to provide high-quality programs and exceptional service to our participants and maximize our donors' support



We will be an innovative and agile organization; to this end, we will rely on strategic, collaborative approaches to initiate and support pioneering programs and workshops that break new ground.


Lasting Outcomes

We seek to advance new ideas and discoveries that address the root causes of fundamental decline; we will define success by objectives linked to a significantly positive and lasting impact on individuals and the broader society.



We will work with and convene community leaders to develop and implement strategies that support innovation and bring new ideas and information to targeted groups; new collaboration areas will evolve as we continually reevaluate needs.


Core Values

We will bring to our workshops and seek in our relationships with others a commitment to, and belief in, empowering children and youth, adults, seniors, job seekers, and workforce partners to develop the next generation of ethical community leaders.



We will engage in arts-infused education and entrepreneurial approaches of continuous learning, hard work, and reassessment; we recognize that these qualities are essential to our mission's achievement.

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