This morning at the White House, Pima County Public Library's afterschool program called Word Journeys was recognized as one of the top 15 programs in the nation, awarding the us the prestigious Coming Up Taller award. Program Director Marge Pellegrino and one of the program's teen volunteers from Amphi High School attended the awards ceremony and received the award from First Lady Laura Bush.
Marge and I have known about this since July and it has been a little bubble of joy for both of us -- and very hard to keep secret!
Word Journeys hires teens from Amphi High School to mentor elementary school children afterschool during the school year. Each week the high school students help plan a workshop based on a picture book story that includes, writing, art, and oral interpretation, and includes explorations of the library and its treasures.
For the last two years children and teens from Tucson's Somali Bantu refugee families have been included in the program, children who were born in the refugee camps and had known nothing else. Their English skills have improved so dramatically that fourth-grader Hawa told me she bravely defended Obama's tax policies when her school teacher told the class that Obama would raise everyone's taxes. She was very proud to have voted in the library's recent "Kids Vote" election.
Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, along with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to showcase cultural excellence and enhance the availability of out-of-school arts and humanities programs to children.
Update: Marge just called, and they were interviewed after the ceremony by the local affiliate for Fox News! So cool. A representative of one of our recent funders was also there, someone from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
And here (above) is the first ceremony photograph!
More to come, I'm sure.