Deep Center to be Recognized by First Lady at White House

BNV Network Member, Deep Center, has been presented with the nation’s highest honor for creative youth development programs

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

Tuesday’s East Room ceremony will include remarks by Massey, who will recount his experience with Deep Center and his personal journey of discovery through poetry. Also, 12 students ages 14 – 18 from Rosie’s Theater Kids (New York City), another of the awardees, will perform a medley of songs written by alumni of New York Public Schools, ranging from George and Ira Gershwin to Paul Simon and Alicia Keys.

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.

First presented in 1998, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The awards are presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“When I started Deep as a 8th grader at Mercer Middle School, I had no idea it would lead me the White House and meeting the First Lady of the United States,” said André, now a freshman at Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School. “I thought I was just going to write a few poems and maybe get a chance to read them in public. But, Deep did more than that—it changed my life. It showed me how to express myself, and through my writing, I reconnected with my father.”

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.

In spring 2015, according to Chatham-Savannah Public School System data, 60% of Young Author Project youth saw their grades increase by an average of 10% (one full letter grade). And pre- and post-workshopsurveys (developed by the Search Institute to measure internal strengths and external supports that are foundational to learning) show remarkable increases for youth participants: Support (15%), Empowerment (18%), Boundaries and Expectations (9%), Constructive Use of Time (11%), Commitment to Learning (10%), Positive Values (16%), Social Competencies (12%), Positive Identity (9%), Personal (12%), Social (16%),Family (5%), School (12%), Community (14%).

“Deep Center gives young people with passion in Savannah the skills to succeed in school, work and life,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. “By engaging with students at an early age, this program provides an environment to think creatively, work as a team and solve problems. I look forward to their continued success in our state.”

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.

“This award recognizes the documented fact that Deep Center is an essential investment not just in the lives of our young people, but also in Savannah’s future,” said Dare Dukes, Deep Center’s executive director. “We’re profoundly proud of this honor and of our young authors. And we thank our teaching-writers, public school partners and teachers, donors, board members and staff members who have given their time and talents over the past seven years to encourage, inspire and embolden our Deep young authors to raise their voices.”

“You can’t help but be moved by these kids, who show us the transformative power of the arts and humanities,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “They are staying in school longer, getting better grades, graduating from high school and going on to college at significantly higher rates than their peers. And they’re building skills that will last them a lifetime.”

For more information about Deep Center please visit For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit

Deep Center is a nonprofit that provides free, fun and rigorous writing workshops for public school students in Savannah, Georgia. Deep takes an in-depth approach to literacy by challenging young people to engage with language and their stories through writing, reading, and performance. We help them write and express themselves with skill, confidence, and courage, and we showcase their best work through publication and livereadings. Deep also strives to raise the voices of diverse young people in our community to ensure their perspectives, stories, and aesthetics are part of our rich cultural fabric, and to afford them the opportunity to engage in critical debates and the development of new cultural forms and movements. Deep Center is funded in part by the Adler Family Foundation, the Johanna Anderson Trueblood Foundation, the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs, the Georgia Council for the Arts, Georgia Power, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Savannah Community Foundation, the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, Jane Griffin and Matt Prickett, the United Way of the Coastal Empire, and many generous institutions and individuals.

Brave New Voices

Brave New Voices