It’s a story to add to the tales G. Kwame Scruggs teaches young urban males as they sit in a circle and learn about life through mythology.
“Just like in myths, if we never give up, utilize our resources, handle details, after some time or maybe a lot of time, our dreams can literally come true and we can become the heroes within our own stories,” Scruggs said Tuesday, a day after the program he founded was recognized as one of the best youth programs in America.
Scruggs and Crouse elementary sixth-grader Dashawn Lamar Felton accepted a 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award at the White House. First lady Michelle Obama led the ceremonies Monday afternoon.
Alchemy Inc. and 11 other programs around the country received the awards from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“In myth, receiving this award was what would be considered a core moment,” Scruggs said. “We were literally in the castle of the king. We literally met with the princess.”
Scruggs said in myth, a “core moment is the one day that changes your life forever. We always tell our youth that it only takes one day to change the rest of your life, be that for the good or the bad.”
The awards presented Monday honor community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, developing positive relationships with peers and adults and creatively expressing themselves.
“We plan on this award being the gift that keeps on giving,” Scruggs said.
Alchemy, founded in 2003, works with urban adolescent males using storytelling, mythology, African drumming and mentoring to help them develop a sense of purpose in life and to better function as members of family, school and community.
Alchemy, which was a finalist for the award in 2011, was chosen from about 371 nominations and 50 finalists this year.
“Having the chance to represent my peers in accepting the award from the first lady of the United States in the White House was an experience that I’ll never forget,” Dashawn said through a White House news release. “It showed me that the power of programs like Alchemy to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued.”
The program has worked with about 1,200 boys since its formation. This year, there are 120 youth involved in programs from schools in Akron, Copley Township and Cleveland.
Scruggs hopes to continue working with core groups of young men in the area, plans to have college-age men who were in the program as youth extend the program to other cities in America and will begin offering classes to teachers to help them learn to use mythology in the classroom.
“In spite of all the challenges and obstacles our young people face, in spite of all their fears and doubts, you teach them to make art anyway,” Obama said in the White House news release. “You teach them that no matter what life throws their way, if they draw on their own talent, creativity and courage … if they’re persistent and tenacious and bold … then they can truly make something extraordinary out of their lives.”
Scruggs said taking Dashawn and another student in the program, Darren Townsend, to the White House and meeting the first lady was “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“It is like, wow, a myth coming true!”
Over the years, Alchemy has been funded by a number of organizations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Akron Community Foundation.
For more information, go to www.alchemyinc.net.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.