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HOPE! Drama Troupe is a group of 20 middle school and high school youth whose mission is to end child abuse and neglect and strengthen families in Polk County.


HOPE! is administered by Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre with assistance from the Restoring HOPE Committee. Each year, HOPE! Drama Troupe members use an original script to educate area youth about child abuse and the impact it has on children and families.


Their 25-minute performance defines the types of abuse, demonstrates the consequences of abuse and identifies how to get help. The troupe tackles tough issues that are difficult for youth to talk about and portrays ways to discuss problems and get help. 

There is a documented link between childhood abuse and long-term health effects, including visual, learning and hearing deficits, increased illness, emotional disturbances, delayed language development, low self-esteem and aggressive tendencies. According to Prevent Child Abuse America, the most costly long-term effects are those associated with responding to adults who, because of earlier abuse, are involved in criminal activity. Their report puts those costs at over $5 billion annually in the United States.

Polk County statistics show that child abuse is as prevalent in in Polk County as in other parts of the country. Educating young people about the consequences of child abuse and advising young victims to seek help is vital to the prevention of child abuse as well as important for early intervention for juvenile delinquency. Since it began in 1993, HOPE! Drama Troupe has always been well respected in local schools for its ability to communicate with teens about physical abuse, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse, date rape, teen pregnancy and the many other problems associated with child abuse.


They spend one day each month (November-May) with their professional directors and a counselor, touring central Iowa and performing for various middle schools, high schools, community groups, churches and more.

What is Hope



HOPE! is co-directed by central Iowa teachers and artists, Nate Jorgensen and Jenna Darsee, with support from DMYAT Executive Director, David A. VanCleave and Program Administrator, Anastasia Deace. All four were active members of HOPE! in high school. 

Auditions are held each May for the following year's cast. Students in grades 8-12 are invited to attend. The 2019-2020 cast includes students from Altoona, Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, Grimes, Prairie City Monroe, Urbandale, Van Meter, Waukee, West Des Moines and more.


HOPE! is generously sponsored by

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One in four children in the United States is abused by the age of 18.

Who is Hope

2/3 of adults in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused as children.


HOPE! Drama Troupe was started by the Child Abuse Prevention Council in 1993 in response to an increase in child abuse cases in Polk County. The program was housed at Central Campus and was directed by area professionals, including T Valada-Viars, Tim Wisgerhof, Kim VanHaecke, Joanne Wilson and more. 

In 2018, the Child Abuse Prevention Council voted to grant the rights to HOPE! to Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre. 

Traditionally, HOPE! has performed for approximately 4,500 students with over 20 performances each year.

History of HOPE

Children who experience abuse and neglect are nine times more likely to be involved in criminal activity.

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