The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has honored organizations across the United States and Mexico for outstanding programs encouraging young people's creativity.
Serenaded by talented teenagers who learned music in community-based, after school arts programs, the White House, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded prizes to 13 groups that have provided such opportunities to underprivileged youth.
Called the Coming up Taller Awards, the winning programs provide young people, including many who live in poor neighborhoods, with learning opportunities, chances to contribute to their communities and ways to take responsibility for their own futures.
First Lady Laura Bush handed out the awards, saying that programs that encourage children's creativity help foster intellectual development.
"The arts and humanities are critical building blocks for a child's development," she said. "Drawing helps children improve their writing. Poetry helps with memory. Theater brings history to life. Arts and humanities help to develop vocabulary and critical thinking and an appreciation for math and science."
Two youth arts learning programs in Mexico were among the recipients of the Coming Up Taller awards.
They were chosen by the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture, which promotes exchange programs to enhance mutual understanding between the two countries.
Mrs. Bush says such efforts help to channel the energy of young people in productive directions.
"Through Coming Up Taller, young people are growing up stronger and smarter and more prepared for what the world holds," she said. "More children tune violins than into television. More participate in plays than in violence. Rather than give up, they give in to the joy of painting a mural to beautify an old building in their neighborhood."
The Coming Up Taller program is celebrating its fifth anniversary. During its first five years, 53 organizations have each won $10,000 awards for their achievements with children.