SEATTLE and WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- 826 Seattle founder Teri Hein and Ballard High School student Meron Kasahun were at the White House today to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama. The award recognized 826 Seattle for its effectiveness in developing learning and life skills in young people by engaging them through the power of the written word. 826 Seattle is the city's only nonprofit dedicated to improving the writing skills of youth, age 6 to 18, and helping teachers inspire students to write.
Ms. Kasahun is a senior at Ballard High and the daughter of a single Ethiopian immigrant mother. She began attending 826 Seattle's afterschool programs more than five years ago, and has been a regular at the Greenwood-based nonprofit ever since. Kasahun, 17, has served as a Youth Mentor at 826 Seattle and is currently a member of its Youth Advisory Board. She is also president of the Ballard High Black Student Union, is an active member of Teens Against Tobacco and has been an editor at her school newspaper.
And today, Kasahun stood in the East Room of the White House to accept the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Mrs. Obama.
Chosen from a pool of more than 470 nominations and 50 finalists, 826 Seattle 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 expressing themselves creatively.
"Having the chance to represent my peers in accepting this award from the First Lady in the White House was an experience that I will never forget," said Kasahun. "I found my community at 826 Seattle, and I attribute much of my success to the support, mentoring, homework help, and writing classes I have received there. It was amazing to have 826 recognized in such a big way, and I am honored to have represented."
826 Seattle services are structured around the belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. Since its founding in 2005, the program has engaged more than 9,000 young people in a broad mix of writing programs, after school tutoring, workshops, field trips and in school projects.
The award was celebrated by a number of its long-time partners and supporters, including U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, US Representative Jim McDermott, and US Representative Jay Insley.
"By inspiring young people to embrace and enjoy writing, 826 Seattle opens doors that help students succeed in school and later in life," said Congressman McDermott. "Very few organizations make learning how to communicate as joyful and fun as 826 Seattle does. I am very proud that the White House saw it fit to honor them with the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award."
In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, 826 Seattle 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 fact that programs like 826 Seattle are essential investments in the lives of our young people, and our community," said 826 Seattle founder Teri Hein. "We're proud of this achievement and of the young people, volunteers, supporters, board and staff who made it possible."
"I'm incredibly proud of all that 826 Seattle has achieved, and I'm honored that the White House has recognized them in this way," said 826 National co-founder Dave Eggers. "826 Seattle has built a phenomenal community-based organization that does everything right. They gear their services to the needs of the neighborhoods they serve; they give stakeholders a real say in the direction of the enterprise; and they do it with great verve, constant innovation, a sense of humor and an unwavering commitment to improving literacy and educational success for the youth of Seattle."
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.
About 826 Seattle
826 Seattle (826seattle.org) is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth, ages six to 18, improve their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Its services are structured around the belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. 826 Seattle is one of eight 826 National chapters. The original, 826 Valencia, was co-founded by acclaimed author and philanthropist Dave Eggers and is located in San Francisco's Mission District (826valencia.org).
SOURCE 826 Seattle