Two Southern California after-school arts programs will be honored Monday at the White House for outstanding effectiveness in helping students boost their learning and life skills.
The prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award will be presented to everybody dance! — an afternoon dance program that operates at six inner-city sites in Los Angeles — and TeenSpace, a mentoring and tutoring program for 10- to 23-year-olds based out of the Santa Ana Public Library.
"It's an amazing thing. If I could take all the kids with me, I would," said Cheryl Eberly, a librarian at Santa Ana Public Library who came up with the idea and launched the program in 2009.
TeenSpace students gain work experience and training in digital media arts production and get help with academics and career readiness.
The program started with 70 to 100 students and has grown in size. It now operates at four sites with about $400,000 a year, most of which come from the city's general fund.
Eberly said she knows other libraries can replicate her program.
"It relies a lot on just creating really great, meaningful experiences for youth and also tapping into community resources," she said. "When we first started, there was no budget."
Santa Ana High School senior Josue Rodriguez, 17, started attending the library after school as a fifth-grader and learned how to play the keyboard. He now wants to pursue music as his career.
"This is where everything started for me," he said. "I could have been like a kid with no dreams."
Rodriguez will be traveling with Eberly to Washington, D.C., to pick up the award. It'll be his first trip on an airplane.
More than 350 organizations were nominated for the awards. Twelve winners from across the country were selected from 50 finalists.
Everybody dance! is sending 12-year-old dancer Jovahna Solalindez as its student representative. It's her first trip to Washington.
The after-school dance program that serves inner-city youth is run by the Gabriella Foundation. It began in 2000 with 35 students and now serves more than 2,400 kids a year.
According to the foundation, 94 percent of the program's high school graduates enrolled in college.