In a Monday afternoon presentation hosted by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, an Akron after school program was nationally recognized in the East Room of the White House.
Alchemy Inc, a non profit organization located here in Akron, was awarded the 2012 Nation Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Representing Alchemy was Dashawn Lamar Felton, 12, and Dr. Kwame Scrugs the founder and Executive Director of the program.
Co-Chair of the Presidents Committee On The Arts and Humanities, George Stevens, introduced the local non profit by giving a brief explanation on how they use mythological story telling to authentically and creatively address the reality of their challenging environments.
"Myth and hero of Akron Ohio guides African American students in reading, interpreting and analyzing classic and mythological stories and relating them back to their own lives" says Stevens.
Dr. Kwame Scrugs spoke with Ray Horner Monday morning and talked about how they first got started.
"It initially started with the Night Foundation when they gave Perkins Middle School five million dollars in 2003. and so we were just fortunate enough to be there, so we started the after school program there in 2004." says Scrugs.
Alchemy was chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists and was 1 of 12 other programs to receive an award.
AKRON AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM HONORED BY
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Alchemy Inc. is recognized for positive youth outcomes
(Akron, ohio) – Dashawn Lamar Felton, age 12, of Akron was at the White House today to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of the nonprofit organization, Alchemy, Inc. which was recognized for its effectiveness in developing learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the arts and humanities.
Dashawn Felton has been in the Alchemy program for three years. And today, Felton stood in the East Room of the White House to accept the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Mrs. Obama.
Chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists, Alchemy was one of 12 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the award, which is 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, developing positive relationships with peers and adults, and creatively expressing themselves.
“In spite of all the challenges and obstacles our young people face, in spite of all their fears and doubts, you teach them to make art anyway,” said Mrs. Obama addressing the awardees. You teach them that no matter what life throws their way, if they draw on their own talent, creativity and courage . . if they’re persistent and tenacious and bold
. . . then they can truly make something extraordinary out of their lives.”
“Having the chance to represent my peers in accepting this award from the First Lady of the United States in the White House was an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Felton. “It showed me that the power of programs like Alchemy to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued.”
Alchemy Inc. was created to assist urban adolescent males to develop a sense of purpose in life and successfully function as members of a family, school, and community. The program uses mythological story-telling, drumming, strong male mentors, and other activities to authentically and creatively address the reality of their challenging environments. Alchemy’s programs currently serve about 125 youth in Akron and Cleveland schools, as well as a core group of youth that have participated in Alchemy for several years. Since its founding in 2003, the program has engaged more than 1,200 young people in activities that develop their knowledge, leadership skills, character and emotional intelligence to:
Acquire resilience to life’s challenges and positively overcome obstacles;
Complete their high school education and prepare for education beyond high school;
Pursue and accomplish their personal and career aspirations;
Be contributing members and leaders of their families, schools and community;
Become hopeful for their futures.
The powerful impact of the program is illustrated by the fact that 87 percent of the participants that first began the program have enrolled in college.
Alchemy has developed partnerships with public and charter schools in Akron,
Cleveland, Copley and Youngstown, as well as The University of Akron, Kent State University and Stark Technical College; local non-profits; and a wide circle of leaders throughout the U.S. Collaborative relationships exist with the Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology in New York, Jung Educational Center of Cleveland, The Joseph Campbell Foundation, Michael Meade and Mosaic Multicultural Foundation and Pacifica Graduate Institute-Santa Barbara. Major foundations that have or are supporting Alchemy include the Akron Community Foundation, City of Akron, First Federal Savings & Loan, Gertrude F. Orr Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Vernon Odom Fund.
“By engaging and inspiring young people, Alchemy is giving them not just the vision but the skills to build a new and better life for themselves and their families, and for our community,” said Marco Sommerville, President of Akron City Council. “These young people are learning how to use creative thinking to work as a team, to solve problems and to express themselves constructively. These are exactly the kinds of skills we want them to have to be able to succeed in school, in work and in life.”
In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, Alchemy 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 Dr. Kwame Scruggs, Founder of Alchemy. “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 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 www.pcah.gov.
For more information about Alchemy, please visit www.alchemyinc.net.