youth-dance-program-america-gov.jpgThe Keshet Dance Company uses dance to teach literacy, math and conflict-resolution skills to 250 incarcerated youths at the New Mexico state juvenile detention center.

The Harmony Project in Los Angeles provides intensive, year-round music instruction, choir and orchestra programs, to inner-city children from low-income families.

These are just two of the 19 after-school programs to which first lady Michelle Obama presented a 2009 “Coming Up Taller Award” in a White House ceremony November 4. The award, which honors arts and humanities programs for underserved children, comes with a $10,000 prize for each recipient.

“Each of your programs is using achievement in the arts as a bridge to achievement in life,” said Mrs. Obama, the honorary chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which sponsors the Coming Up Taller awards in partnership with three federal agencies.

“You affirm that their contributions are valuable, and their success matters to all of us. You help them see beyond the circumstances of their lives to the world of possibility that awaits them. And for that, we honor you.”

Not all the projects benefit kids in the United States. In Egypt, Alwan wa Awtar (Colors and Strings), a nonprofit organization established in 2005, exposes impoverished youth to art, workshops and field trips to museums, concerts and exchange programs and tries to inspire them to embark on their own voyages of artistic self-discovery.

“By providing opportunities for self-expression,” said Margo Lion, the committee co-chairman, “these exceptional projects offer a belief in a more positive future.”

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