With their personal stories offering dramatic proof that arts and humanities programs can build critical learning and life skills, 12 young people from across the country accepted awards today from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of the after-school and out-of-school time programs that changed their lives.
Chosen from a pool of more than 471 nominations and 50 finalists, the 12 community-based programs were recipients of the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the highest honor awarded to such programs in the United States. The awardees were recognized by Mrs. Obama for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to generate a wide range of outcomes, including increases in academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment, as well as improvements in literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.
First awarded in 1998, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, formerly known as the Coming Up Taller Award, is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), and is presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Louis Vuitton is the corporate sponsor of the 2011 award program, and Ovation TV is the national media partner.
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“When a student writes a play, she’s not just learning how to put lines on a page. She’s boosting her language skills, becoming a better public speaker, gaining a sense of pride in her ability to set a goal and to reach it,” said Mrs. Obama. “In the end, that’s really what all this work is about. It is about helping our young people grow and inspiring them to give back. It’s about taking an interest in them, and challenging them to dream a little bigger and reach a little higher.”
The 12 students receiving awards from Mrs. Obama today represented a wide range of arts and humanities programs, including one program that takes 11th and 12th grade students on a 10-day journey through five Southern states following the path of the Civil Rights Movement (Sojourn to the Past), another that uses art history and poetry as vehicles to inspire, challenge and motivate pregnant and parenting teens (Humanities Rock), and another that engages children and youth ages 5 to 18 in free, high-quality art-making classes that provide students with a positive means of self-expression (Fleisher Youth Art Programs).
“These programs literally transform the lives of the thousands of young people they touch,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the PCAH. “They give these kids an outlet for their passions and their talents, and teach them to think creatively, to communicate more effectively, to work as a team, and to solve problems.”
Goslins pointed to a study recently released by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools,” which reports on a growing body of research documenting positive educational outcomes for youth involved in the arts and humanities. According to the report, low-income youth engaged in arts programs are more likely to stay in school, to get good grades, to graduate, and to enroll in college. These benefits of involvement in the arts increase over time for low-income students, who are more likely than their peers to have attended and done well in college, to have obtained employment with a future, to have volunteered in their communities and to have participated in the political process by voting, according to the report.
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Among the measurable outcomes generated by the 2010 awardees are the following:
100 percent of the young people in the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, ArtLab, HANDS-ON, the Young Shakespeare Workshop and Positive Directions Through Dance finish high school, and many are the first in their family to go to college;
86 percent of the students participating in the 826 Seattle after-school program reported improved grades;
88 percent of the students involved in ArtWorks reported that the program was successful in providing the resources, connections and ideas they needed to pursue a creative career;
Last year, more than 4,000 middle and high school students in 10 states and the District of Columbia attended extracurricular humanities courses through the Gilder Lehrman Saturday Academies; and
Since 2001, the Native American Composer Apprentice Program has created, presented and recorded more than 200 new works for string quartets written by high school students living on reservations.
“By transforming lives and communities, these programs represent an important investment in our future,” said Goslins. “It is our hope that by recognizing the best of the best in this field, we will increase awareness of their tremendous power and impact, and give them the opportunity to serve more young people and attract more sustainable support.”
Each of the 12 community-based programs will receive $10,000 and a year of communications and capacity-building support in recognition of their accomplishments.
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The 2011 awardees are:
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
grand rapids, mich.
Fleisher Youth Art Programs
Fleisher Art Memorial
EAST BOSTON, MASS.
Community Adolescent Resource and Education Center
Native American Composer Apprentice Project
Grand Canyon Music Festival
grand canyon, ariz.
Positive Directions Through Dance
The Dance Institute of Washington
Gilder Lehrman Saturday Academies
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
new york, n.y.
Sojourn to the Past
SAN BRUNO, Calif.
Young People’s Chorus of New York City, Inc.
new york, n.y.
Young Shakespeare Workshop
For more information about the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, please visit www.pcah.gov.
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About the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. The awards recognize and support outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline and academic success, with demonstrable results. They also provide safe harbors after-school, weekends and evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings.
About the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Created in 1982 by Executive Order, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. The PCAH works directly with the Administration and the three primary cultural agencies—National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to address policy questions in the arts and humanities, to initiate and support key programs in those disciplines, and to recognize excellence in the field. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and community revitalization. Mrs. Michelle Obama, like other first ladies before her, serves as honorary chairman of the committee, which is composed of both private and public members.