In November First Lady Michelle Obama recognized several after school arts and humanities programs with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Award, including one from Utah.
Speaking at the award ceremony in Washington D.C. Mrs. Obama told program organizers to keep shining a light on youth, saying these kids are the next generation of fabulous.
Spy Hop is a Salt Lake City after school program that specializes in giving youth hands-on experience in the digital media arts. Kasandra VerBrugghen is executive director of the organization that was one of 12 recognized for service to youth.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for young people, teenagers in particular, in the out-of-school time environment where they can really find their voice and develop who they are and their sense of belonging, and their sense of community,” she said. “And at the same time their developing their passion for their medium and whether that’s film, audio, music, or design.”
The 16 year old program has provided professional mentoring for nearly 20,000 youth ranging from ages seven to 20 years old.
VerBrugghen said Spy Hop instills in youth what she refers to as 21st century skills: communication, working in a team, understanding diverse perspectives, and learning to problem solve.
“Those are really valuable skills that will serve young people as they transition into the next phase of their life.”
Spy Hop was chosen from a pool of more than 285 nominations nationwide. The organization was acknowledged as one of the best creative youth development programs in the country.
“At the end of the day this award is really for our community. This award is for our students, and this award is for all the hard work and dedication of our mentors and our staff. All of us have worked really hard to earn this honor on behalf of our community and the young people that we serve.”