With their personal stories offering dramatic proof that arts and humanities programs can build critical learning and life skills, twelve young people from across the country were awarded the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama on November 2. Accepting on behalf of the after-school and out-of-school time programs that changed their lives, these twelve organizations were selected by a national jury from more than 471 nominations for this the highest award made to outstanding after-school arts and humanities programs in the United States.
The awardees were recognized by the First Lady and Honorary Chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) 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.
“Every day you all are providing unparalleled opportunities for our young people to explore every facet of the arts -- from dance and theater, to writing and music, to history and the visual arts. In so doing, you’re not just teaching these young people about painting or acting or singing, you’re teaching them about hard work and discipline and teamwork. You’re teaching them how to manage their time -- something that we all need to learn -- how to set goals, and, more importantly, how to achieve those goals,” said Mrs. Obama
The field of cultural after-school programs is as diverse as the needs of the young people they serve. The 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award recognize programs whose settings range from both inner-city and rural cultural institutions to libraries and museums. Whether they be part of an arts apprentice program, writing workshop, or an intensive curriculum focusing on young Native American composers, the participants in these programs all share a common experience summed up by First Lady Michelle Obama in her remarks to the awardees: “the programs show that the arts are a lifeline — not a luxury — for many of these kids.”
Two of the programs honored at the White House, Positive Directions Through Dance and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, performed the previous evening at a gala honoring all the recipients at the US Institute of Peace, hosted by Louis Vuitton, a program sponsor. Like other programs receiving the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, Positive Directions Through Dance uses the discipline of dance to engage young people, who otherwise might be left behind, but instead go on to productive careers because of their training. All these programs are proof that that the arts and humanities training and learning help create a better future for young people. Some results from other awardees:
86 percent of the students participating in the 826 Seattle after-school program reported improved grades;
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 Saturday Academies of American History; 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.
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 National Endowment for the Arts Chairmen Rocco Landesman, the Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth and the National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach. President’s Committee Member Vicki Kennedy and the wife of the Indonesian Ambassador to the US Rosa Djalal presented the international spotlight award to Kampung Halaman.