Oregon non-profit Caldera has won a national award for creative programs for youth.

Caldera is one of 12 community -based organizations to win a 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. First Lady Michelle Obama will present the awards during a White House ceremony Nov. 17. The awards are the highest honor for after-school arts and humanities program, according to a news release, and recognize programs that increase student achievement, literacy, cultural awareness and more.  

Founded in 1996, Caldera partners with six Portland-area schools and six schools in Central Oregon to provide mentoring through arts and environmental programming. About 75 percent of the roughly 435 students Caldera serves in a year qualify for free and reduced meals at school, said Executive Director Tricia Snell. Roughly 60 percent are students of color. 

Caldera mentors work with students year-round for seven years, starting in middle school and continuing through high school graduation, Snell said. The program places artists in schools for weekly classes, hosts weekend camps and runs a summer arts camp in Sisters, which introduces students to photography and film. About 90 percent of the program’s seniors graduated last year, Snell said. 

“It’s like exercising their creative muscles,” Snell said. “They take that creativity and they apply it to all those other parts of their lives. It’s just remarkable to watch.”

Snell and Caldera student Alena Nore, from Sisters, will receive the award together during Tuesday’s ceremony. Nore, 18, described her time with Caldera as “life-changing.”

“It’s exciting to see that programs like this are recognized and valued, because I know there are many more young people who need the kind of mentoring I benefitted from,” Nore said in a statement.  

Caldera will receive $10,000 as part of the award. Snell said Caldera had applied for the award in the past but hadn’t won, and hopes the funding will help the organization remain sustainable as it heads into its 20th year. 

“The universe knew this was the right time for us,” she said. “We are going to invest that right back into working for the future.” 

Caldera was selected from more than 285 nominees and 50 finalists from across the country, according to a news release. The awardees were chosen by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

Other 2015 award finalists include Confident Voices, a New York program to help students who stutter, and Deep Center, a youth writing workshop program in Georgia. 

The ceremony will be live streamed online at 2:15 Eastern Time on Nov. 17.

–Laura Frazier


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