East Boston’s popular music and performing arts program had a lot to celebrate last Wednesday after the program, its director and one participant were honored during a White House ceremony hosted by First Lady Michele Obama.
It was announced last week that Zumix was the winner of the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award and the program threw a party at its Sumner Street firehouse facility and watched live as Zumix participant Ixchel Garcia and Executive Director Madeleine Steczynski picked up the award in Washington.
“We are incredibly honored to receive the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House, the highest honor our country has for youth arts programs,” said Steczynski.
Zumix is one of only 12 programs across the country chosen from a pool of more than 471 nominations and 50 finalists for this distinction.
First Lady Obama presented the award to Garcia and Steczynski in the White House’s East Room.
“This award recognizes that Zumix is making an important contribution to the youth we serve and to our community,” said Steczynski. “By engaging youth in music and the arts, we’re building critical learning and skills that help them succeed in school and in life.”
Numerous studies over the years have shown that youth who participate in the arts do better in school, and they’re more likely to graduate from high school, to go to college, to find meaningful employment, and to be active members of their community.
“We see that happening here at Zumix, in the last 4 years, 92 percent of our seniors have gone on to college,” said Steczynski.
The award was presented by the First Lady on behalf of 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.
“I want to recognize all of the artists, the educators, and administrators who are on the ground everyday running the programs that we’re honoring,” said Obama at the White House Ceremony last week. “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, Obama said programs like Zumix are not just teaching young people about painting or acting or singing, but 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 the First Lady. “And all of you working so hard with these young people are not just helping them use the arts to lift themselves; you’re showing them how they can lift their communities, as well, and that’s so important.”
Steczynski echoed the First Lady’s comments and hoped the major honor the Eastie program has received will shed light on the need for more investment in similar endeavors.
“There’s no question that these are tough times for programs like ours,” Steczynski. “We need the support of the community to engage as many youth as we can. And we hope this award will help us make the case that Zumix is a critical part of the investment we’re making in the future of our youth and our community.”