For its effectiveness in developing creativity and fostering academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities, the city of Las Vegas' New Directions Youth Arts Program was recognized with a prestigious national award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 20.
Chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists, New Directions was one of 15 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly, the Coming Up Taller Award), the highest honor such programs can receive in the United States. The awards are administered by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), 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 award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.
New Directions was recognized by Mrs. Obama for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to create positive choices while teaching life skills such as conflict resolution, team building, the ability to develop strong positive relations with peers and building self-esteem and confidence. Founded in 1997, New Directions was created to provide an after-school/out-of-school program offering life-skills creative arts programs for adjudicated youth and youth within challenging communities, and youth dealing with substance abuse and domestic violence.
The foundation of the program is to offer a visual language that affects the embodiment of life's positive choices. Over the past 13 years, the program has engaged more than 4,450 young people in creative movement, theatre, writing, visual arts, percussion, pottery and social circus workshops. Many students have created lasting murals throughout the Las Vegas community that reflect their culture and history.
Accepting the award from Mrs. Obama on behalf of New Directions YouthArts was Trevon Cacha Barnes, a 16-year-old participant in the program and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, who was accompanied to the White House by Patricia L. Harris, cultural administrator for the city of Las Vegas.
"Standing with the First Lady of the United States in the White House and accepting this award was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never forget," Barnes said. "It showed me that the power of the arts and humanities to change kids' lives is recognized and valued."
In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, New Directions Youth Arts will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.
"We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but in our community, as well," Harris said.
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation's highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth. 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, on weekends and evenings for children and youth in some of our country's most at-risk urban and rural settings. For more information, visit the website.
New Directions Youth Arts' goal is to impact personal and social change by offering youth a chance to recover from substance abuse, negative behavior, and the courage to make "win-win" life choices through the arts and humanities. New Directions has many partners in this successful program including Cirque du Soliel, Clark County Family Services/Probation and Detention, Safe Nest, Andre Agassi College Prep Academy, Paiute Tribe, the Las Vegas Indian Center and WestCare. For more information about New Directions Youth Arts, please visit online.