Missouri History Museum Receives White House Award for Youth Programs

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

First Lady Michelle Obama awarded the Missouri History Museum the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Award in Washington, D.C. this morning in recognition of the museum’s Teens Make History program. It was one of 12 after-school programs selected to receive the award, which honors America’s best creative youth development programs that utilize arts and humanities engagement as a way to increase academic achievement, improve communication and literacy and develop cultural awareness.

Fifty finalists were considered for the award from a pool of 350 nominations. At the ceremony, Missouri History Museum was represented by Director of Interpretive Programs Elizabeth Pickard and Amesha Payne, a senior at Carnahan High School and a current Teens Make History student.

“Receiving this honor from the First Lady means so much to all those who have worked so hard on the Teens Make History program,” said Pickard, who began Teens Make History in 2007, in a statement. “We began this program with the desire to make a lasting impact in a kid’s life beyond the school hours, particularly for at-risk youth. We wanted to bring together young people from across the region and with diverse backgrounds, and challenge them to rise above their expectations for themselves.”

Teens Make History takes high school sophomores, juniors and seniors through an eight-week museum studies course to qualify them to apply to a long-term apprenticeship with the program. The apprentices are then divided into two groups, the TMH Players (who research, write and perform plays) and the TMH Exhibitors (who conduct exhibition projects and oral history interviews). According to the museum’s statement, the programs develop accountability, teamwork, time management, written and spoken communication skills and responsibility, which the US Department of Labor identifies as necessary for workplace success.

The award was presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Arts, which also turned the national eye on St. Louis a few weeks ago when Executive Director Kelly Pollock was called to address their annual meeting. Pollock spoke about COCA and the innovative ways in which the organization is expanding the role of a community arts center.

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