Twelve young people from across the country shared the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama as they accepted the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award on behalf of the after-school programs that have changed their lives.
Memphis’ New Ballet Ensemble and School (NBE) is among the recipients. The award was accepted on behalf of the organization by its founder and CEO, Katie Smythe, and Briana Brown, a 17-year-old dancer who has been involved with the program for 10 years.
The award recognizes the country’s best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The honorees – chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists – are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.
This is the first time a program from Tennessee has been honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
"It is such an honor to be included among these awardees,” says Smythe. “I hope that news of this award will embolden more young Memphians to pursue their dreams, believing in themselves as they embrace hard work."
First presented in 1998, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The awards are presented annually 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).
The White House is recognizing New Ballet Ensemble as a program that brings together students from diverse racial, socio-economic and religious backgrounds to build self-confidence, leadership and academic success – and heal a community divided by race – through dance
“You can’t help but be moved by these kids, who show us the transformative power of the arts and humanities,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “They are staying in school longer, getting better grades, graduating from high school and going on to college at significantly higher rates than their peers. And they’re building skills that will last them a lifetime.”
In addition to their recognition at the White House, each of the 12 community-based programs will receive $10,000 and a year of communications and capacity-building support from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit www.pcah.gov.
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 chair of the committee, which is composed of both private and public members. For more information, visit: www.pcah.gov
ABOUT NEW BALLET ENSEMBLE AND SCHOOL
Founded in 2001, New Ballet Ensemble and School is a Community School of the Arts and Arts Education program with a professional teaching and performing ensemble. Unique to Memphis and to communities across America, New Ballet is a bridge-building arts training organization that serves youth from every corner of the area and in its entirety, providing access to excellence in training. Children and adults come together on a daily basis in an arts space where the common denominators are both excellence and innovation in dance. The bridges that we build in the process remain a principal focus of the organization’s leadership. For more information, visit: www.newballet.org
The 2014 awardees are:
¡City Arts! Community AfterSchool Program
Providence ¡City Arts for Youth!, Inc.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Delta Blues Museum Arts and Education Program
everybody dance! after-school program
The Gabriella Foundation
Los Angeles, CA
Project STEP, Inc.
Intensive String Training Program for Black and Latino Young People
Job Training in the Arts
Downtown Aurora Visual Arts
Middle School Program
New Ballet Ensemble
New Vic Usher Corps
The New Victory Theatre
New York, NY
Continuum of Design-based Programs
New York, NY
Teens Make History
Missouri History Museum
Saint Louis, MO
TeenSpace Circle of Mentoring
Santa Ana Public Library
Santa Ana, CA
International Spotlight Award:
Salaam Baalak Trust
New Delhi and Mumbai, India