awardFirst Lady Michelle Obama honors RiverzEdge

RiverzEdge is one of 15 nationwide recognized for positive youth outcomes through engagement in the arts and humanities

For its effectiveness in developing creativity and fostering academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities, RiverzEdge Arts Project was recognized with a prestigious national award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, October 20.

Chosen from a pool of more than 450 nominations and 50 finalists, RiverzEdge 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.

RiverzEdge was recognized by Mrs. Obama for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to ensure youth stay out of trouble, stay in school, graduate, and apply to and gain acceptance to college. Since 2004, 100 percent of the program’s seniors have been accepted into college, including some of the nation’s leading art schools. Founded in 2002, RiverzEdge was created to provide underserved youth in one of the poorest cities in RI with paid employment in the arts and a voice in their community. Over the past 8 years, the program has engaged more than 700 young people from Northern RI in arts & business entrepreneurship, workforce development and environmental design programs.

Accepting the award from Mrs. Obama on behalf of RiverzEdge Arts Project was Jamel Williams, a 17 year-old participant in the program from the RiverzEdge screen printing studio, who was accompanied to the White House by Rebekah Greenwald Speck, the Executive Director.

"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,” said Williams “It showed me people recognize and value the arts and their power to change kids’ lives. RiverzEdge is where I work, where I enhance my future and where I make my life as an artist happen right now. I am really proud to be part of RiverzEdge and that RiverzEdge has won this award."

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, RiverzEdge Arts Project 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, in fact, changing lives for not only our young people, but for our community at large.” said Amie Kershaw, Board member for RiverzEdge and Vice President, Director of Public Affairs at Citizens Bank.

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