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Akins Alumni student gets recognition at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama

Presenting the nation’s highest honor for creative youth development programs

(Austin, TX) – Kassey Rocha, 19, and Olivia Tamzarian, Education Coordinator, of Austin will be at the White House on November 15th, 2016 to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Mexic-Arte Museum's Screen It!, which will be recognized for its effectiveness in promoting learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the creative youth development programs. The after-school program will receive the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s highest honor for these students.  
The award recognizes the country’s best after-school and out-of-school-time creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The 12 awardees—chosen from a pool of more than 251 nominations and 50 finalists—will also be recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.
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).

“Having the opportunity to represent my peers in accepting this award from the First Lady of the United States in the White House will be an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Kassey. “It showed me that the power of programs like Screen It! to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued.”

Screen It! was created to introduce students to the principles of screen printing and related careers in the arts. This visual arts program serves to promote self-esteem, entrepreneurial skills, and cultural understanding through screen printing. With the guidance of professional artists, graphic designers, and program directors, the Museum has served over 2,100 at-risk students annually since its inception in 2009. Screen It!courses primarily focus on creative design, screen printing techniques, and entrepreneurship through the arts.
The award is celebrated by a number of its long-time partners and supporters, including the City of Austin Community Youth Development Program, the Austin and Del Valle Independent School Districts, and the Texas Commission for the Arts.
Screen It! teaches screen printing, but it also teaches art history and critical thinking,” said Kelly Greene, Art Teacher at Travis High School. “It is very important for my students to understand art in a cultural context, and that is exactly what makes Mexic-Arte’s Screen It! program so unique. What Mexic-Arte offers my students, who mostly identify as Latino,  is a hard-to-find art enrichment program with a specifically Latino focus. Screen It! has made this important art form accessible for teens in a way that I never would have imagined possible."
In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, Screen It! 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,” said Sylvia Orozco, Executive Director of Mexic-Arte Museum. “We’re incredibly proud of this achievement and of the young people, volunteers, supporters, board and staff who made it possible."
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. The award recognizes and supports 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 during the evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings.
“These amazing programs prove how effective creative youth development can be in changing lives and communities,” said Megan Beyer, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “They’re improving academic achievement and contributing to high school graduation rates, and they’re providing the opportunity for young people to build the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in school and in life.”
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—the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—as well as with 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. Obama, like other first ladies before her, serves as Honorary Chairman of the committee, which comprises both private and public members.
For more information about Screen It!, please visit www.mexic-artemuseum.org. For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit www.pcah.gov.