Student Perspective: Founding and Growing an Arts Nonprofit

Article written by Lauren Hall, a graduate student in the dual MAAA/MPA program at SPEA. Lauren currently works as an Engagement Assistant for the IU Cinema. She is the Co-Founder of Indy Pulse and is an alumna of Teach for America-Indianapolis. Contact her at:

I created Indy Pulse two years ago, with 3 other diverse Teach For America (TFA) Indianapolis alums. We created Indy Pulse with the conviction that student voice, inclusive dialogue and narrative sharing is essential to affecting equity. Through spoken word poetry we educate and support our youth as they cultivate their voice which empowers them to craft meaningful life paths for themselves and their communities.

Back in 2013, I called my fellow co-founders one week before the InnovatEd pitch competition. It was my first year serving as a TFA teacher, and I was in a “failing” school that recently learned it was being closed. After this announcement, I had too many kids in my class looking defeated, dejected. They didn’t have the words, the space, the community, nor the voice to process what was happening to them. Whitney—my straight A student rebellious, righteously indignant, classroom leader—said to me, “Dang, of course they’re closing this school Ms. Hall, look at all these stupid, disrespectful kids!” I saw her struggle through internalized failure; yet the school closing, and many other challenges in her community, were completely out of her control. She deserved Indy Pulse.

Indy Pulse doesn’t just get youth to see themselves differently, it allows them to see each other differently; and helps them to understand life circumstance differently, it gives them a sense of control unmatched by the absence of Indy Pulse.

Indy Pulse has been going strong for two years now. For more context, our website and an article by an IndyStar journalist are helpful. Teach For America has also been a great supporter, and promoter, of our work—a video they created gets at who we are and what we do.

Recently, we worked with our community partner Indy Reads to have a youth slam in April. The event brought out over 80 enthused attendees. Our youth poets, their family members, and Pulse leaders shared heavy truths, laughs, and inspiration. I’ve attached some photos from it.

Indy Pulse is now at an exciting growth point. We’re expanding to more schools next year and beginning the process to incorporate as a 501c3. Currently, we’re identifying potential board members and hoping to confirm in the next month. Ultimately, we plan to create a citywide league that promotes student voice, inclusion, and community.

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