Michelle Obama honors the arts
First Lady MIchelle Obama awards one of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award to Fabian Barnes (l) and Daniel Arts (middle) of the Dance Institute of Washington in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.
November 2nd, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Michelle Obama honors the arts

WHITE HOUSE (CNN) – Daniel Artis spends four afternoons a week after school with his friends, not on the basketball court, but in a dance studio. Yet this Wednesday afternoon he wasn’t dancing. Instead, he was at the White House receiving an award.

The high school junior at Fairmont Heights High School in Washington, D.C., is part of the after-school program, Positive Directions Through Dance (PDTD), which was honored in a ceremony at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama.

The after-school dance program was one of 12 winners of the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. The recipients were chosen from a pool of 471 nominations and 50 finalists from across the country of after-school programs that use the humanities to encourage students to live healthy and balanced lifestyles. The winners ranged from a group that teaches poetry to teen moms who have dropped out of high school to a youth chorus from inner-city New York City that has toured around the world.

Mrs. Obama praised the groups for providing a nuturing atmosphere and for teaching skills that will impact all areas of the students’ lives.

“In so doing, you’re not just teaching these young people about painting or acting or singing, you’re teaching them about hard work and discipline and teamwork,” the First Lady said. “You’re teaching them how to manage their time - something that we all need to learn how to set goals, and, more importantly, how to achieve those goals.”

Fabian Barnes is one of those mentors whose goal is to give back to their community and make a difference in the lives of children.

Barnes, a former principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, said that dance was an outlet and had a powerful impact on his life as an inner-city teenager growing up in Seattle. He founded the Dance Institute of Washington to give others that same opportunity.

“Dance is the vehicle to teach the discipline,” Barnes said. The program is free to lower-income students and teaches life skills such as job and financial preparedness and healthy living.

His program, like most of the other 11 award winners, boasts of the successes in the lives of their students. According to Barnes, all of the PDTD participants graduated from high school or advanced to the next grade level.

“Students who participate in the arts and humanities programs are four times more likely to succeed academically than those who don’t,” said Margo Lion, co-chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Artis, who has been a part of the after-school dance program for the past three years, credits the program with his success so far in life.

“It means a lot to me. It gives me discipline and it helps me focus,” he said.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Central Park West

    Thank you First Lady Michelle Obama for your work for child health, youth education and the revival of the arts and play for children. I encourage all well-meaning congress men and women to join in these important initiatives which are well overdue!

    November 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Lefty

    For the first time in my adult life I'm proud of the arts.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  3. Pete

    She's such a snake

    November 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Howard

      Anybody, but a gullible fool can see how the obama administration fabricated a phony image for michelle. After coming from a corrupt Chicago backround, spending years in Wright's anti-America, racist church, and getting over paid with public funds due to nepotism, the obama administration USED children to give her a squeeky clean appearance.

      November 3, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
      • Alex

        Hateful people never get anywhere in life. While you're busy complaining and claiming things you know nothing about President Obama and the First Lady are making a difference and your negativity doesn't affect them at all. So all the these kids that got these awards and their proud parents are gullible fools? Yeah, you're ignorant.

        November 4, 2011 at 1:40 am |
      • jean2009

        @ Alex Thanks!
        Obama-Biden 2012
        Way to go Michelle!

        November 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  4. Liz Carter in Georgia

    That's right Jean...OBAMA/BIDEN 2012! Yes we will again.. Believe it!

    November 8, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Mohamed

    WRKO's coverage was iblrhore. Rush was essentially muzzled for most of the first hour.It sounded like the crap WRKO typically runs and calls "news."-Joe from Brighton

    March 4, 2012 at 1:42 am |