Alum accepts national award from First Lady Michelle Obama
by MaryAlice Bitts
October 21, 2010
David Snider '93, CEO and artistic director of the Young Playwrights’ Theater, poses in the White House with YPT participant Mariana Pavon Sanchez and First Lady Michelle Obama. Obama presented Snider with a national award to recognize his organization's efforts to foster young people's creativity through playwrighting.
First Lady Michelle Obama presented CEO/Artistic Director David Andrew Snider ’93 with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYP) Oct. 20, recognizing work performed by his nonprofit organization, the Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT).
Formerly known as the Coming Up Taller Award, the NAHYP is administered by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowments for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. It was presented at the White House to 15 nonprofit arts organizations that foster creativity in underserved youths. Each winning organization also received $10,000 to support its programming.
“This is a tremendous honor for David and his work with young people. We can all celebrate his contributions,” said Brian Kamoie ’93, the White House National Security Staff’s senior director for preparedness, who attended the NAHYP ceremony to cheer on his Dickinson classmate and friend.
A worthy cause
The NAHYP was the latest of several distinguished honors bestowed on the YPA, which was founded 15 years ago to help young people express themselves effectively through playwriting. Over the years, the Washington-based organization has brought more than 200 student-written plays to local, national and international audiences and has received commissions from the White House, Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution.
Snider, a Cogan Fellow who received a two-year, $100,000 leadership-development grant from the Meyer Foundation in 2009, said that the lessons he learned at Dickinson inform his work.
“We give students the tools they need to engage the world. In turn, they share their dreams, their fears, their hopes and their visions for the future,” said Snider, who has served as the nonprofit organization’s CEO and artistic director since 2005. “It goes beyond basic reading and math skills. Students need to be able to put their ideas forward and defend them—to be able to inspire and be inspired.
“Otherwise, how can they compete in the global arena if they have no original ideas to share? And how can they envision their future if they’re not able to dream?”
One of the beneficiaries of the YPT program helped illustrate these points by reading an excerpt from her play during the NAHYP ceremony.
Nineteen-year-old Mariana Pavon Sanchez, an immigrant from Nicaragua, wrote the autobiographical work through the YPT program earlier this year. Speaking before a live audience of educators, students, artists and government officials in the White House’s East room, Sanchez expressed gratitude for the opportunities the program affords, saying, “I was a very shy student, afraid to speak out. Now, here I am, addressing the First Lady of the United States.”
After the ceremony, Snider introduced Sanchez to celebrated cellist/composer Yo-Yo Ma, who serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
“He loved her play and told Mariana how much it reminded him of himself when he was young and shy,” Snider reported. “She wasn’t sure who he was, but I assured her that someday, she’ll be thrilled that he liked her play.”
Read more about David Snider ’93.