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First lady Michelle Obama honors educators, youth in community arts and humanities programs

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WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama on Monday thanked art educators for not only teaching children skills in arts and humanities, but for inspiring them to dream big.

"You light a fire in them," she said. "You help them grow emotionally and socially. You give kids a spring in their step when they get out of bed each morning. You give them something to look forward to after school each day."

The first lady presented national arts and humanities awards to 12 after-school programs from across the country and one international program in India. Some of the programs teach dance, music and graphic design.

The White House ceremony included a head-bopping musical performance from the Delta Blues Museum Arts and Education Program Band of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and remarks by Jennifer Guadalupe Gonzalez, 16, of Chicago, who explained how acting in a production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater gave her a boost in confidence.

The first lady encouraged the students to embrace their opportunities in the arts, but to also remember their education is just as important.

"Your education is critical," she told the youngsters. "Don't play around with it. It's the best investment that you'll make."

The 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are hosted by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with three national cultural agencies.

The U.S. community-based organizations were chosen from more than 350 nominations and will receive $10,000.

Other programs recognized during the ceremony were:

—¡City Arts! Community AfterSchool Program, Providence ¡City Arts for Youth! Inc., Providence, Rhode Island.

PHOTO: First lady Michelle Obama, left, tries to get Boris Cochajil, 13, center, to relax as Susan Jenson laughs, as their after school program "Job Training in the Arts, Downtown Aurora Visual Arts" of Aurora, Colo., is presented with a 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in the East Room of the White House, on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, tries to get Boris Cochajil, 13, center, to relax as Susan Jenson laughs, as their after school program "Job Training in the Arts, Downtown Aurora Visual Arts" of Aurora, Colo., is presented with a 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in the East Room of the White House, on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

—everybody dance! after-school program, The Gabriella Foundation, Los Angeles.

—Project STEP Inc., Intensive String Training Program for Black and Latino Young People, Boston.

—Job Training in the Arts, Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, Aurora, Colorado.

—Workshop Houston, Middle School Program, Houston.

—New Ballet Ensemble, Memphis, Tennessee.

—New Victory Usher Corps, The New Victory Theatre, New York.

—Publicolor Inc., Continuum of Design-based Programs, New York.

—Teens Make History, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

—TeenSpace Circle of Mentoring, Santa Ana Public Library, Santa Ana, California.

International Spotlight Award:

—Salaam Baalak Trust, New Delhi and Mumbai, India.

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