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First Lady Michelle Obama Honors GALA Program at the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama Honors GALA Program at the White House

Nov 19, 2012

Today Christian Sánchez, age 16, and Rebecca Read Medrano, Executive Director of GALA Hispanic Theatre were at the White House today to receive the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Paso Nuevo, a GALA youth program that was recognized for its effectiveness in developing learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the arts.

 Chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists, Paso Nuevo 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.  Louis Vuitton is the corporate sponsor of the 2012 award program, and Fox Audience Strategy is the national media sponsor.

Sanchez began participating in the Paso Nuevo program when he was eight years old and was feeling pressure from peers, family and school.  His involvement with Paso Nuevo has given him a safe environment that provided focus and direction to his life, improved his educational achievement, and sparked an interest in the arts.

“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 Sanchez. “It showed me that the power of programs like Paso Nuevo to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued.”

Through Paso Nuevo, Latino youth ages 12-19 have a safe and creative space in which to explore and take pride in their linguistic and cultural heritage, improve literacy and communication skills in both English and Spanish, discover their creative voice, gain valuable academic and job skills, and develop the tools necessary to engage more successfully in their schools and communities. Since its founding in 1993, the program has engaged more than 1,000 young people in creative writing, performance, music and technical theater workshops. 

Support for the Paso Nuevo program has been provided bythe D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs of the District of Columbia, Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation, and the Inter-American Development Bank-DC Solidarity Program.

To learn more about Paso Nuevo, click here: 

First Lady Michelle Obama Honors GALA Program at the White House