First Lady to Recognize Sphinx Organization at The White House

Mike Lawson • Uncategorized • November 11, 2016

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Detroit-based Sphinx Organization to be presented with nation’s highest honor for creative youth development programs.

Joselyn Hernandez, 12, along with President and Artistic Director, Afa S. Dworkin, will be at the White House on November 15, 2016 to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of the Sphinx Organization. The Sphinx Overture program, which provides free violins and lessons to all public elementary schools in Flint, MI as well as several in Detroit, MI, will receive the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s highest honor for creative youth development programs. The Perfect Fourth String Quartet, representing Sphinx’s educational programming, has also been chosen to perform at the White House. Its members are Aidan Daniels, Maxwell Fairman, Peirce Ellis, and Nicholas Reeves.

First presented in 1998, this award annually recognizes the country’s best after-school and out-of-school-time creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The 12 awardees—chosen from a pool of more than 251 nominations and 50 finalists—are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.

“I’m so excited to have the chance to accept this award from the First Lady in the White House,” said Joselyn. “It makes me proud to be a part of a program like Sphinx, which changed my life.”

The Sphinx Organization, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017, is the Detroit-based national social justice and the arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx programs reach over 100,000 students in 200 schools nationwide, and Sphinx has provided more than $2.5 million in scholarships to students and musicians.

“We hope this award will draw attention to the fact that access to the arts is essential in the lives of our young people and in our communities as a whole,” said Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization. “We’re incredibly honored by this distinction. At a time that is so divisive and turbulent, our young artists symbolize promise, compassion and achievement. They are empowered to change the narrative in our communities as well as our field.”

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. The award recognizes and supports outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline, and academic success—with demonstrable results. They also provide safe harbors after school, on weekends, and during the evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings.

“These amazing programs prove how effective creative youth development can be in changing lives and communities,” said Megan Beyer, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “They’re improving academic achievement and contributing to high school graduation rates, and they’re providing the opportunity for young people to build the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in school and in life.”

For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit For more information about Sphinx and press inquiries, contact Therese Goussy at or 734-255-7623.

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