January 25, 2024

Avenues for Justice Volunteer Facilitator Ryan Burvick Gets Creative With Our Participants

Ryan Burvick and his Audio Pictures team. Photo by BBC.

This week, AFJ is thrilled to spotlight AFJ Volunteer Facilitator and HIRE Up partner, Ryan Burvick of Audio Pictures. Ryan was one of our Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)facilitators in 2022. He also hosted two AFJ Interns at his business as part of our 2023 Fall internship placement cohort.

Avenues for Justice currently maintains a bank of 65 volunteers, including academic tutors, who assist AFJ Participants with schoolwork, entrance exams, admissions forms and essays to advance onto post-secondary education. Volunteer facilitators lead job readiness and financial literacy workshops and take par tin career panels to prepare our Participants for employment. Volunteers also coach Participants through our HIRE Up enrichment programs, providing mentorship for healthy socialization.

Ryan launched his career as a songwriter and Hip Hop artist in Queens. He was offered several deals with major record labels, but opted to start his own business and studio which he operated out of his Astoria apartment. His home-based studio became a hub for local rappers, musicians, storytellers, and young people wanting to record their projects. Self taught, Ryan expanded his expertise from songwriting into music production and engineering. He started crafting ideas for an after-school music program. For two years, those ideas were housed in an untouched document on his computer until he bumped into a friend who was in the process of creating a music program at Rikers in collaboration with the Columbia Justice Lab.   

Recruited to consult on the Rikers music project, Ryan was finally able to bring that curriculum, which had been shelved on his desktop, to fruition. Columbia Justice Lab immediately recognized Ryan’s talent and promoted him from Consultant to Program Director. The popularity of the music program was widespread amongst Rikers’ general population and took off as one of the most favorable programs offered. Through the program, Rikers’ incarcerated population were able to produce and record songs—the first in the notorious prison’s history. While the Columbia Justice Lab’s network provided a strong pedagogical framework, Ryan believes that he excelled as a Program Director because of his experience with the criminal justice system, and his knowledge of the impact it has on Black and brown communities. In 2016, he began operating the program independently as Audio Pictures LLC.   

In 2020, Ryan held a networking event at Audio Pictures, targeting outreach to community youth. It was at this event where AFJ’s Director of Court Advocacy, Gamal, met Ryan. In 2022, as AFJ prepared to host our second Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) internship program, the AFJ team reached out to Ryan. In partnership, AFJ and Ryan created a music production curriculum as a result of our Participants’ interest in the field. AFJ SYEP interns alternated between Ryan’s professional studio and AFJ’s ad hoc one at our Lower East Side community center. One of Ryan’s star pupils was AFJ’s 2023 Second Chance Award Recipient Thomas.

Ryan celebrates with Marquis, a 2022 SYEP Intern, at AFJ’s  "Andy Awards" ceremony.

Building off of SYEP’s success in 2022, AFJ once again approached Ryan last year for Audio Pictures to host a more comprehensive 125-hour, 8-week internship. With stipends covered by AFJ, Ryan took on two AFJ interns as part of the Fall cohort series. In a full circle moment, one of Ryan’s interns was from his original 2022 SYEP group. 

During the first week of the internship, Ryan established strict boundaries, making it very clear that the internship placement was not going to be about focusing on personal music projects or trying to record songs. He wanted AFJ interns to understand what happens during “downtime” at a recording studio, from attending meetings with managers, producers, engineers, and artists to labeling cables and familiarizing themselves with studio equipment. Ryan is a believer in that, “the more tools that people have to express themselves, the more likely they are to problem solve and find new creative ways to move forward in life.” 

This week, AFJ kicked off interviews with 24 Participants, with the goal of placing10 Participants in our 8-week internship program starting in February. Placement will once again be within small, local businesses, and priority will be given to our Court-Involved Participants who are mandated by the courts to attain employment. The 10 interns will receive competitive hourly wages paid for by AFJ. We are thrilled to continue this initiative after its success in 2023—none of which would be possible without partnerships like the one we have with volunteer facilitator Ryan and Audio Pictures.

If you are a local business interested in being a host site for Avenues for Justice’s internship placement, please contact our HIRE Up employment specialist, Shantel, at sbrooks@avenuesforjustice.org


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