First Lady Michelle Obama Presents 2009 Coming Up Taller Awards at White House CeremonyFirst Lady Michelle Obama Presents 2009 Coming Up Taller Awards at White House Ceremony

“That's what these Coming Up Taller Awards are all about. You ask our young people to dream, and you give them the tools to fulfill those dreams. You affirm that their contributions are valuable, and their success matters to all of us.“--First Lady Michelle Obama, Coming Up Taller ceremony November 4.

First Lady Michelle Obama presented the 2009 Coming Up Taller awards (CUT) at a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House on November 4. Groups from 19 communities in the U.S., Mexico, China and Egypt were honored for their outstanding arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of young people, providing them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities.

“This year's Coming Up Taller Awardees exemplify how arts and humanities programs outside of the school setting can impact the lives of our young people,” said Margo Lion, Co-Chairman, President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “By exciting imaginations and providing opportunities for self-expression through the disciplines of theater, dance, music and literature, these exceptional programs offer their participants windows on possibility and a belief in a more positive future.”

The field of cultural after-school programs is as diverse as the needs of the young people they serve. The 2009 Coming Up Taller awards honor programs whose settings range from both inner-city and rural cultural institutions to juvenile detention centers to libraries and museums. Whether they be part of an arts apprentice program, a poetry slam, or an intensive after-school curriculum focusing on literature, the participants in these Coming Up Taller programs all share a common experience summed up by First Lady Michelle Obama in her remarks to the awardees: “Each of your programs is using achievement in the arts as a bridge to achievement in life. . . .You help them see beyond the circumstances of their lives to the world of possibility that awaits them.”

Two of the programs honored at the White House, Express Yourself and Citywide Poets, performed the previous evening at a gala honoring all the recipients at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Gallery. Like other programs honored by Coming Up Taller, Express Yourself uses the discipline of the arts and humanities to engage young people in collaborative projects, in this case creating an annual multidisciplinary performance of dance, music and visual arts at Boston's Wang Center.

Each program will receive $10,000 in honor of their accomplishments in enriching the lives of young people and their communities. Organizations from the U.S. receiving awards included the following: TAG Teen Program, Willcox, AZ; Art a la Carte, Dorchester, MA; Higher Achievement, Washington, D.C; Sitar Arts Center, Washington, D.C.; Yollocalli Arts Reach, Chicago, IL; Citywide Poets, Detroit, MI; Express Yourself, Inc., Beverly, MA; Young Chicago Authors, Chicago, IL; Outreach Program with Incarcerated Youth, Albuquerque, NM; Epic Theatre Ensemble's Shakespeare Remix Program, New York, NY; Girls Write Now Mentoring Program, New York, NY; Young Artists Apprenticeship, Houston, TX; New Urban Arts, Providence, RI; Old Brick Playhouse Company, Elkins, WV; Harmony Project, Los Angeles, CA. The four international programs receiving awards included Mexico's Estrellas Con Angel and Radiombligo; China's Green Path of Art—Arts Training for Youth in Sichuan; and Egypt's Alwan wa Awtar.

Joining First Lady Michelle Obama and PCAH Co-Chairmen George Stevens, Jr. and Margo Lion in presenting the awards to participants in each program were Vice-Chairman Mary Schmidt Campbell and representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Special guests included Ambassador for the People's Republic of China, Zhou Wenzhong, Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan of Mexico, and Ambassador Sameh Shoukry of Egypt.