Posted by Jessica Latinović on February 14, 2018 in AncestryDNA, In The Community

What if knowing your history could give you a greater sense of confidence and inspire your direction in life?

“The project was made to be liberating, eye-opening, and informative…an effort to spark interest in individuals to discover their heritage and to learn more about the history of their origins.”
— Thomas Evans

Following the success of They Still Live in 2017, artist Thomas Evans wanted to make an impact on his Denver community by inviting young adults to explore their heritage through art, poetry, and photography.

The evolution of Thomas’ exhibit turned into We Still Live, a community-based art project collaboration with Arts Street@YEA, professor and African art collector Paul Hamilton, and Denver gang prevention programs. The program offers a positive alternative for youth to counter negative influences by exploring self-identity and cultural heritage through art.

The project started in June 2017 with 49 young adults referred by Denver Public Schools and social service agencies. The youth selected reported having had contact with the juvenile justice system or self-identified higher risk factors for potential gang involvement.

By using AncestryDNA to help uncover their ethnicity and ancestral roots, students were given a deeper sense of belonging to their history and community.

“Initiating this project, we talked to youth about problems in their communities and they told us that gang involvement and violence was impacting their neighborhoods. One young man told us,

 ‘Kids first look to joining a gang because they feel they don’t have a place in this world – or a point for even being. They need opportunities to shine a light on a new way.'”

One of the art projects was for students to make a mask representing who they were as individuals.

Another exercise challenged students to write identity poems based on writing prompts from poet and guest instructor Toluwanimi Oluwafunmilayo Obiwole.

Students then viewed Paul Hamilton’s collection of African artifacts and masks. Professor Paul Hamilton is an African Studies academic, previous Colorado State Representative, and renowned collector of fine African masks and African art. See a past interview we had with Mr. Hamilton here.

After completing the program, students were asked to share their feedback on how the program helped transform their thinking. The participant survey was created by the National Research Center for the Alliance for Creative Youth Development and it reported that:

  • 78% said that…Feel that I can make more of a difference
  • 78% said that…Learned I can do things I didn’t think I could do before
  • 71% said that…Feel better about my future
  • 80% said that…Feel I am better at handling whatever comes my way
  • 82% said that…Care more about young people of other cultures, races, or ethnic groups
  • 82% said that…Have more respect for young people of other cultures, races or ethnic groups
  • 84% said that…Feel more comfortable with young people of other cultures, races, or ethnic groups
  • 82% said that…Try harder not to judge people based on skin color
  • 89% said that…I understand that someone who looks or sound different than me may not be that different after all

Having the opportunity to watch the personal growth of these students has been immensely inspiring. We each have so much to be proud of in our family histories and we can learn from the hardships our ancestors overcame. We encourage you to unlock your past to see how it might inspire your future.

Arts Street@YEA is a Denver-based organization dedicated to helping high-risk youth channel their artistic talents and natural curiosity into professional activities needed for the immediate future. To learn more about the We Still Live exhibit and the wonderful programs at Arts Street@YEA, visit their website.


Jessica Latinović

Jessica serves as U.S. Social Media Manager for Ancestry.


  1. Freddie Forrest

    Personally I find ancestry dna to be suspicious.Twice i’ve Submitted samples,after waiting for weeks,I was informed that dna needed resubmittance,without explanation.Upon calling contact phone # Twice I was hung up on after waiting approximately 25 minuets,while on hold i’m Being bombarded with advertisements for ordering additional test.Why can’t they submit swabs instead of spit ! I find this process very frustrating.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      Hi Freddie, we’re very sorry for any negative experience you’ve had while taking the AncestryDNA test. Just to explain, every persons DNA sample will have a varying level of DNA present in it, when compared to the sample provided by someone else. The amount of DNA in a sample will greatly influence whether a result can be processed and displayed from that given sample. We would encourage you to follow the steps outlined within your account to have a new kit sent out to you if needs be, once your latest sample has reached the lab, we can work on providing you with your results as soon as possible. We really appreciate your patience and understanding during this period.

    • Paul

      Same here. I called and call and all I get was it was my fault????? Bad Business. I would never Advise anyone to use

  2. Lisa

    This sounds like a great program how can I bring this to my community. We don’t really have any gang violence problems but I know there are kids/people in my community that can benefit from a program like this. Please let me know how to get more information about starting a program like this in my area. Thank you

    • Sokolee

      That’s not your Ethnicity Estimate; that’s the global regions and sub-regions on display. You either clicked See All 150+ regions or you clicked the down arrow. You see numbers on the right side and colorful dots to the left, the dots correlate to your estimate and the numbers are the number of sub-regions.

  3. Paul

    I’ve been waiting sense Dec 2017 two test and it’s my fault????? So I feel like The 2nd test should have Expedited the 2nd one but no it’s March now and no news ….. $$$$$$$$$$$ Get your money and no Don’t worry about the consumer!!!!!!!!

  4. Jé La B

    My mom and I sent our kits back to the post office and apparent they have not been received yet so the dna has not started being processed and we sent them out on January 23 and it is now March 5 this has been a terrible experience so far.

    • Sokolee

      If you have not even heard that the kit was received at the lab it suggests maybe the kit was lost in the mail. Did you activate the kits as instructed? Check your spam box to see if a notice went there, and check your DNA account to see what the progress bar says. Call 1 800 262 3787 to find out what the story is; they will need usernames for the accounts. Call! Its your test!

  5. Leigh Reynolds

    No problem. I woould just like to see one of your commercials focused on heritage about blacks. Our history for the most part stops in slavery. But with DNA results you can make one showing proud Africans from a certain region. We may not be Vikings or trace our blue eyed ancestor or identify our specific tribe, but give our race hope finding our heritage by visually oresenting the possibilities. Thanks

  6. Audrey Steel

    I submitted my sample on Jan 18, 2018. I have been so excited to get my results, because of all of the native American blood in my family. Guess what not 1% was Native American, this to me is just a scam. I have pictures of my Native American family members. My fathers mother was full blooded Cherokee and my mothers grandmother was 3/4’s Cherokee, as well. WTF….So disappointed. I want my husband’s money back!

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