by Thomas White for The Voice
Kyle Hollins didn’t believe it.
Just over three years after being released from a federal penitentiary, he had been awarded the Pinnacle Prize — a recognition that comes with a $100,000 cash award — for his work at Lyrik’s Institute, the nonprofit he formed to help keep others out of prison.
“I didn’t even know what the Pinnacle Prize was, I didn’t think it was real,” says Hollins. “I had to call Brandon [Calloway] at G.I.F.T. and ask him. What is this? What is going on?”
Calloway was a 2022 Pinnacle Prize winner.
The Pinnacle Prize was established in 2021 by local philanthropists Ann and Kenneth Baum. The prize recognizes young leaders under 40 who are working to make life better for those who need it most in the Kansas City area.
This isn’t a prize you can apply for. Winners are selected by a board of local leaders “with their fingers on the pulse of who and what is happening throughout the Kansas City community.”
“It was a big deal for me that someone was looking at the work behind the scenes,” says Hollins. “Building a not-for-profit from nothing, especially with my background, is very taxing. Just to be recognized for that, that hit my heart.”
Hollins founded Lyrik’s Institution in 2019. It’s based on the cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) programs he received while serving 90 months behind bars.
CBT treatment typically involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:
- Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality.
- Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others.
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
“What I learned was that poverty, criminality, and violence stem from three different thought patterns,” says Hollins. “We’ve been able to hone in and target those thought processes that lead to further criminality and violence as well as help people walk out of poverty.”
Lyrik’s Institution — named after Hollins’ daughter — gets referrals from schools, parents, organizations, and the Kansas City Police Dept. to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth ages 13 to 25. To help provide young adults with a pathway out of poverty and violence, Lyrik’s programming emphasizes a holistic approach, incorporating job opportunities, cognitive behavior modification, and a strong emphasis on creative arts.
“You can’t solve poverty with poverty,” says Hollins. “Once we change your thought process, we have to change your pockets.”
Lyrik’s partners with local businesses, schools, and organizations to offer programs like the Summer in the City initiative, which combines behavioral modification classes with arts programming at the Kansas City Art Institute.
“Our culture has a really high emphasis on creative arts,” says Hollins. “One of our biggest things is giving them something to hunger for.”
Lyrik’s allows students to choose a creative path from music, fashion, videography, theater, and everything in between. Hollins says they incorporate the creative arts into their cognitive behavior modification program. The result is that young adults have a way of expressing themselves. Lyrik’s works to pair program participants with an internship that can help them turn that passion into a career.
Last year, Lyrik’s Institute touched the lives of 1,300 young adults and families and they plan to increase their reach by 20% annually through a variety of programs.
The organization operates within schools, offers after-school and summer programming, conducts targeted interventions, and offers programming at their East 39th Street location five days a week.
Hollins says that the reason Lyrik’s Institute has shown success is that they harness the power of the arts and cognitive behavioral therapy through the lens of Black culture.
“The principles of cognitive behavior modification work, and we aren’t the only group that does that or restorative justice or internships, but the methodology of how we deliver it through a cultural approach is what makes us a step above,” says Hollins.
As an example, Lyrik’s Institution partnered with organizations to give out shoes to students in Kansas City area schools. Hollins wanted to encourage and empower students who may otherwise not get recognized.
They talked with school counselors to identify kids who could use a nudge, showed up to have a conversation with them, and gifted them a pair of shoes. As Hollins puts it, “You can’t lose with a pair of Jordans.”
Lyrik’s Institution is set to launch a new cohort model in February. Called “I Build,” the cohort will allow 20 young adults to receive a stipend to go through the five programs Lyrik’s offers and to identify a career. Once they’ve identified a career, they get paid to go through a 58-day internship program where they earn a certification.
The model offers wrap-around support for the student’s family; helps with immediate needs like food, housing, or transportation, and with services like getting a GED, conviction expungement and parenting classes.
Hollins envisions the “I Build” cohort model evolving into an “I Build” center within the next 4-5 years. The goal is to create a sustainable and impactful resource for young adults seeking to transform their lives through education, career development, and community support.
For more info, visit www.LyriksInstitute.com.
About the Pinnacle Prize
The Pinnacle Prize was founded in 2021 by G. Kenneth and Ann Baum. With a long-standing civic spirit, the Baum’s wish is to help Kansas City reach its full potential by investing in dedicated, passionate, young leaders working to improve the quality of life for all Kansas Citians – especially those who need support the most. Learn more at pinnacleprizekc.org.