First Lady to recognize Savannah youth author program at the White House

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Deep Center is a nonprofit that provides free, fun and rigorous writing workshops for public school students in Savannah.

On behalf of Deep Center's Young Author Project, André Massey, 14, is heading to the White House to share the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, Nov. 17, to receive the country's highest honor for youth arts and humanities programs.

The ceremony scheduled for the East Room will include remarks by Massey, who will recount his experience with Deep Center and his personal journey of discovery through poetry.

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, Deep Center will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

"We're over the moon. We've been working hard very long, honored to get this award. We really feel like it's an award for our young authors and for all of Savannah and Chatham County," said Deep Center Executive Director Dare Dukes.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award recognizes the country's best creative youth development programs for increasing academic achievement, graduation rates and college enrollment by engaging children and youth in the arts and humanities. The awardees—chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists—were also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness. The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award has been around since 1998. This is just the third time a youth organization has received the award in Georgia, but it is the first time ever a Savannah area organization will be recognized.

Deep Center's Young Author Project connects students in 14 of Savannah's public middle schools with a thriving community of writing mentors—local authors, poets, and journalists—to help them share their stories. Each semester, more than 140 students participate in the Young Author Project, culminating in a public reading of selected student works, known as Deep Speaks, as well as publication of their poetry and prose. Since its inception in 2008, nearly 2,500 young people have participated in the Young Author Project as a way to address the detrimental effects of poverty on literacy in Savannah and to challenge young people to engage with their stories through creative writing.

For more information about Deep Center, click here. For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, click here.

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