AS220 Youth Studio, a Rhode Island program to help troubled youth get involved with the arts to bring positive outcomes in their lives and longstanding AmeriCorps VISTA project, was recognized as one of the nation's 12 most outstanding arts programs for young people during a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.
The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards were presented on Monday, recognizing work that fosters the creative and intellectual development of America's youth through education and practical experience in the arts.
“I know that many of you who are here today, you make all this happen on shoestring budgets; you do it in unbelievable ways, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable,” said Obama. “And I know that you put a lot of late nights and long hours in to give these kids opportunities worthy of their promise.
“But you keep on doing this year after year because you have seen firsthand the transformative power of the arts and arts education in the lives of young people across this country. You know that the skills that you're teaching -- skills like problem-solving and teamwork, self-expression -- these skills aren't just valuable in the studio or in the theater, but they are critical in the classroom and will be in the workplace when you all get there.”
A Way Forward Through the Arts
Since 1998, AS220 Youth has partnered with the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to provide arts education to court-involved youth at the state's juvenile detention facility and in the community. The free program serves more than 450 young people age 14-21 with the hope that the creative process will lead to positive social, educational, and vocational results.
AmeriCorps VISTAs have been central to the development of the program and continue to expand the scope of its work. In addition to the year-round support, VISTA Summer Associates have allowed AS220 to engage more than 100 low-income youth in employment and job skills training.
AS220 serves youth in three separate sites: the Rhode Island Training School (RITS), Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP) – a nationally recognized Rhode Island public middle school dedicated to keeping at-risk kids in school -- and AS220's downtown Providence studio.
“What we do know is that ultimately, arts education doesn't just teach our kids valuable skills, it doesn't just give them an important forum of self-expression and self-reflection, it also helps to shape their character,” said the First Lady.“In so many ways it shapes who they are.”