Last month, the MCC proudly presented Springfield’s SciTech High School Band with the 2017 Commonwealth Award in Creative Youth Development, for providing Springfield’s youth with opportunities to experience music and to give back to their community by sharing their joy in its creation.
Their energetic performance kicked-off the State House ceremony:
MCC’s biennial Commonwealth Awards celebrate exceptional achievements in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The creative youth development category recognizes an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully helped young people develop their creative potential, foster critical learning and life skills, & become active contributors to their communities.
… Well, hello, everyone. Welcome to the White House for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards. (Applause.) Are you guys excited? Let me start by thanking from the bottom of my heart, oh, gosh, so many people. …
And to the entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities — this is my team. These are my people here. I was just talking to them earlier — I mean, we have done some amazing things together. It’s been a tremendous ride. And, oh, I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been to just do great things for kids all over this country. And I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you, not just for the work that you’ve done on this event, but for everything that you’ve done for the past eight years.
From the day we started, all of us, we’ve made it a priority to open up this house to as many young people from as many backgrounds as possible, because we wanted them to understand that this is their house too. (Applause.) And that’s not always the case. There are kids all over this country, all over the world who think that places like this are not for them. So they’re intimidated by it, and it defines the limits of who they can be.
Well, we want to change that. We’ve worked to change that. We want them to know that they should always feel home within these walls and so many important institutions all over the world. At the same time, we also wanted to bring exciting arts programming to students across the country, and to get more kids engaged in the arts at their schools and also in their communities. …
And finally, I want to thank all of the teachers and administrators, all the volunteers who make these programs possible. Some of you are here today with us in this room, and many of you are watching and cheering from back home. And as someone who used to be an executive director of a nonprofit organization, I know that you all are the unsung heroes of these programs, doing the unrecognized and sometimes unpaid work of making these programs work — filling out countless forms, applying for funding, attending endless meetings, going over spreadsheets and budgets in the middle of the night.
This kind of work is hard. Too often it’s thankless. But you all do it because you see firsthand the transformative impact that the arts can have on our young people. And we’re grateful to you all for doing this kind of work.
Through your programs, students have become poets and dancers. They’ve become filmmakers and photographers. And more importantly, they become leaders in their schools and in their communities. They’ve written scripts and short stories. They’ve organized performances and exhibitions. And together, they’ve learned the power of discipline, of hard work, right? And teamwork, right?
These are the exact skills that are critical to success not just in the arts, but in everything — every academic subject that you are going to touch and in any career that you guys are going to pursue. So you don’t know how much you’re getting, but we do because we’re old. We know. (Laughter.) That’s why kids who have gotten involved in the arts have better grades. They are more likely to graduate from high school. They are more likely to then go on to college.
And to anyone who still somehow doubts the power of the arts to transform students’ lives, to anyone who still isn’t completely convinced, I just urge you to find one of these students and talk to them. They’re here today, but they’re not just here, but they’re all over the country. They’re in communities everywhere.
But we’ve got a couple. We’ve got Noemi Negron, who is here. As recently as this spring, Noemi was a promising young woman growing up in Boston who wanted to serve others but didn’t know where to start. But then she got involved with the IBA Youth Development Program, and she helped make a video project about women’s rights. And today, she is a passionate advocate for social justice in her community. That’s where you can go with programs like these.
We have a young man, Rafael Bitanga, who is here all the way from Kodiak, Alaska. How was that trip? (Laughter.) A few years ago, Rafael and his family came to the United States from the Philippines. And like so many young people who’ve immigrated to this country, Rafael worked hard in school and quickly established himself as a leader and a role model. And through the Baranov Museum and Film Intensive, he became both a filmmaker and a photographer, and he even started his own photography business to help support his family.
So Noemi and Rafael, and — I could you about every single student or young person who is here today, but those are some of the stories that you’ll hear from them. And I want them all to know how proud I am of them. I’m proud of you guys, always proud of you guys. You make this job worth doing, just having the honor of getting to meet so many amazing young people.
These kids represent the very best of America, and they remind us all of who we really are. (Applause.) That’s for you. You can’t even believe it, right? (Laughter.) It’s all for you.
But we’re a country that believes in our young people — all of them. We believe that every single child has boundless promise, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money their parents have. We’ve got to remember that. We believe that each of these young people is a vital part of the great American story. I can’t say that enough. (Applause.)
And it is important to our continued greatness to see these kids as ours — not as “them,” not as “other,” but as ours. Because we want them to know that if they’re willing to work for it — and so many are — that they can be anything they want. That’s what this country is about. And we can never forget that. Anywhere in the country, these kids are ours. And that’s really the power of programs like these. That’s the message that they send to our young people every single day.
So I want to end by once again thanking all of you — all the adults here too — (laughter) — for making these programs possible. And I want to thank all of the young people for working so hard. And don’t ever lose hope. Don’t ever feel fear. You belong here, you got that? (Applause.) Those people are clapping for you. So don’t forget that — for all of you. Remember that. Remember that part of this day. And keep working hard, because it’s going to be so important now to be educated and focused. Because no one can ever take your education from you. You got that? Spread the word, you got it? I’m looking at all of you all. (Laughter.)
NAHYP recognizes 10-12 outstanding creative youth development (CYD) programs from across the country. It is the nation’s highest honor “for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people.”
This year, two programs from Massachusetts were recipients of the award:
Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) Youth Development Program, a humanities program that prepares youth ages 13-19 for college through rigorous workshops centered on culture, social justice, and civic engagement.
“We believe that every single child has boundless promise, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money their parents have. And it is important to our continued greatness to see these kids as ours – not as ‘them,’ not as ‘other’, but as ours. And that’s really the power of programs like these. That’s the message that they send to our young people every single day,” said First Lady Michelle Obama during the emotionally charged NAHYP ceremony in Washington DC this week.
The NAHYP winners were chosen from 50 finalists from all around the country. Amongst the finalists were two additional Massachusetts organizations – Boston City Singers and BalletRox! – demonstrating just how much exemplary work in the field of CYD is happening within the Commonwealth.
The MCC is proud to support all four of these organizations. We salute them in this tremendous achievement.
Last week National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu joined us as we celebrated a recent NEA grant to the National Guild for Community Arts Education to support a collective impact initiative and the creation of the first-ever blueprint to advance Creative Youth Development (CYD). The National Guild accepted this grant on behalf of the national CYD partners: The Massachusetts Cultural Council, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Americans for the Arts, and The National Guild. Representatives from CYD programs throughout the country attended the event.
MCC Executive Director, Anita Walker praised and thanked Massachusetts leadership in the field which has included investments of more than $11 million over the past two decades.
On her remarks, Chu reinforced the importance of creative youth development, which integrates the arts, humanities, and sciences with youth development principles. “Arts education fosters bright, creative, and socially engaged students who will grow up to be our next leaders, parents, teachers, artists, and engineers. Because of your work, you are giving them the tools to lead their best lives.” Chu said with gratitude.
To conclude the program, Project STEP students performed and Project STEP Executive Director, Mary Jaffee, who is stepping down after 11 years, received a recognition for her work. In 2014 and under Jaffee’s leadership, Project STEP received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for its rigorous, comprehensive, year-round classical string training program for underrepresented minorities. This is the highest recognition in the nation.
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is the nation’s highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. This award recognizes and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Each year, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards recognize 12 outstanding programs in the United States, from a wide range of urban and rural settings.
We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent
visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient
society, on the streets where we live, in our schools.
– Maxine Greene
Today the MCC introduces Amplify Youth Voices; a new initiative to raise the voices of young people whose creative expression is driving positive change in communities across the state.
Amplify grants provide support for projects designed and executed by young people in programs that are currently receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding. A total of $11,440 was awarded with each grantee receiving up to $1,000.
Amplify projects include:
Actors Shakespeare Project, Boston – To lead a group of youth to create an original play based on Shakespeare’s plays.
BalletRox, Boston – To create a Soca Dance for the Spontaneous Celebration’s Wake up the Earth Festival on May 7th, 2016.
Books of Hope, Somerville – To solicit work from fellow competitors at the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival to publish into an anthology.
Community Art Center, Cambridge – To curate a portion of the ‘Do It Your Damn Self’ National Youth Film Festival in Cambridge and host screenings for young people at a Cambridge public school and MIT.
Community Music School of Springfield, Springfield – To follow the musical journey of 200 students in Chestnut Middle School’s El Sistema-inspired program by creating a video diary for the fellow students, parents, and administrators at the school.
Community Music School of Springfield, Springfield – To follow the musical journey of 40 students in Duggan Middle School’s El Sistema-inspired program by creating a video diary for the fellow students, parents, and administrators at the school.
Express Yourself, Beverly – To lead Express Yourself participants in creating large scale public art exhibition at the Cummings Center in Beverly.
Mass Audobon, Lowell – To create a two-day event in Lucy Larcom Park to introduce youth and families to the parks in Lowell and help young people move away from screens and into natural settings.
Performance Project, Springfield – To co-create a new physical theater piece for 10 youth participants entitled ‘Tenderness’.
Raw Art Works, Lynn – To partner with The Food Project in Lynn to bring healthy food and food education to participants in RAW’s Creative Youth Development programming.
Sociedad Latina, Boston – To lead the creation of a community art exhibit entitled ‘Quien Soy Yo’ (Who I am)
Worcester Youth Center, Worcester – To lead a visual arts program developed for other youth at the Center who have not engaged with art making, entitled YouthARTWorkz.
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is accepting applications for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.
The 12 award-winning programs this year will each receive $10,000 and an invitation to accept their award from the President’s Committee’s Honorary Chairman, First Lady Michelle Obama, at a ceremony at the White House.
Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama presented Project STEP (String Training and Education Program) student Ajani Boyd and Executive Director Mary Jaffee the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP ) Award on behalf of the entire Project STEP community.
Project STEP received the award for its rigorous, comprehensive, year-round classical string training program for underrepresented minorities. The NAHYP Award recognizes the country’s 12 best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The awardees—chosen from a national 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.
Project STEP seeks to increase diversity in professional classical music by tooling students, primarily from underrepresented groups, to compete and excel in that realm. So, nearly every Saturday during the school year, Project STEP brings several dozen students, mostly Black and Latino, to Boston’s august Symphony Hall. Toting violins, violas, cellos, and double basses, these students have arrived for lessons with some of the best classical musicians in the Boston area. Throughout this extraordinary 12-year-long program, these young musicians will receive what has been called a “world-class arts learning opportunity,” one designed to change the course of these young people’s lives, while changing the classical music industry.