SAY's Confident Voices Program Receives 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award
Reuben Polanco, 13, of Bronx, NY was in the Nation's capital today to receive an award from all three federal arts and culture agencies on behalf of SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young.
SAY's Confident Voices after-school program today received the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation's highest honor for these programs. The program was recognized for its effectiveness in promoting learning and life skills in young people by engaging them through creative youth development programs.
The award recognizes the country's best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to generate a wide range of positive outcomes, such as increases in academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The awardees-chosen from a pool of 350 nominations and 50 finalists-were also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.
First presented in 1998, the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award are presented through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in cooperation with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).
"Receiving this award for SAY is awesome, and I can't wait to share it with everyone in Confident Voices," said Polanco. "SAY has changed my life. It makes me feel free and taught me that a speech disability shouldn't hold me back from anything I want to do." Travis Robertson, SAY's Director of Programming added "The arts give permission for our SAY kids to give voice to their thoughts, hopes and imagination. I've seen SAY kids express themselves in plays and songs in ways their everyday world had convinced them was impossible. I'm also proud of the support and encouragement that pours out of our community of young people who stutter. It's an open invitation for everyone to build and grow every week."
SAY was created to empower, educate, and support young people who stutter and the world that surrounds them through creative expression, summer camp, and speech therapy. SAY builds a community of acceptance where young people who stutter gain confidence and communication skills. Since 2001, SAY has offered comprehensive and innovative programs to thousands of children that address the physical, social, and emotional impacts of stuttering. The powerful impact of the program is illustrated by the fact that more than 85% of SAY program participants graduate from high school and advance to college (at a significantly higher rate than their low-income counterparts from underserved communities), an achievement that would be difficult even if not for a speech disability.
"These 12 creative youth development programs represent the best of the best," said Pam Breaux, president and chief executive officer of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. "They are living proof of the power of the arts and the humanities to build the skills young people need to succeed in school and in life."
The award was celebrated by long-time partners and supporters of SAY, including The Common Sense Fund, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pinkerton Foundation, and the Joseph Leroy and Ann C. Warner Fund.
Jane Alexander, Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actress, and past Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts noted, "SAY has been a leading organization for young people who stutter for more than fifteen years, empowering them through arts education, song and speech. SAY's commitment changes lives, inspiring youth, their families and all who work with them to a better world. SAY is now being recognized by the federal government as one of the TOP YOUTH DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS in the country. Congratulations to SAY for its remarkable programs founded in the arts and to all the young people now and to come who have found their voices through SAY."
In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, SAY will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.
Taro Alexander, SAY's Founder & President, said "We are beyond honored to receive this prestigious award. I'd like to humbly thank the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and its cultural partners for this honor." adding, "When I founded SAY in 2001, I wanted to use the Arts as a vehicle to allow young people who stutter to express themselves. 16 years later, we continue to see the transformative power of the Arts in our work each day. It is deeply profound to be recognized for the work we do."
Executive Director, Noah Cornman, said "To be recognized by such respected institutions as one of the top programs in the country is truly humbling. It's a privilege to work with the inspiring kids of SAY, they are changing the world, and their voices deserve to be heard, and celebrated." Cornman added "We also thank our Board, and supporters who helped make this possible."
For more information about SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, please visit SAY.org. For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit www.nahyp.org.
The Stuttering Association for the Young is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers, educates, and supports young people who stutter and the world that surrounds them. Through creative expression, summer camp, and speech therapy, SAY builds a community of acceptance where young people who stutter gain confidence and communication skills. Since 2001, SAY has offered comprehensive and innovative programs that address the physical, social, and emotional impacts of stuttering. This year alone, SAY will award over $500,000 in financial aid to families in need. To date, no child has been turned away due to a family's inability to pay. Generous support helps SAY continue this important legacy.
Pictured: Travis Robertson, Director of Programming at Confident Voices and 13-year-old Reuben Polcano accept the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Jane Chu, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts ceremony on November 9, 2017. Photo by Steven E. Purcell.