Scripps College Academy gets award at White House ceremony

Scripps College received the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Wednesday morning at a formal White House ceremony.

At the ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award to the college for the Scripps College Academy, its college-readiness program.

Current Scripps College Academy participant Raemi Thomas, a 16-year-old who goes to New Millennium Secondary School in Carson, received the award in person from Obama.

“That was nice,” Thomas said afterward in a phone interview, describing Obama as a “warm” and “strong” woman.

Thomas said “from me as a regular participant in (the program), to represent it for the award is … kind of hard to explain in a good way. It’s indescribable.”

The academy is a free, year round initiative geared to prepare young women for higher education. Scripps was chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists and was one of 15 out-of-school and after-school programs nationwide to obtain the award, formerly called the Coming Up Taller Award.

Scripps College Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall has been with the academy program since its inception in 2002 and was at the White House ceremony with Thomas.

“The entire event was exciting and wonderful,” Marcus-Newhall said. “All of these organizations are doing phenomenal things. For Scripps College to be included is really exceptional.”

Marcus-Newhall said she was proud the program had gone beyond her imaginations.

“We wanted to build upon what is unique and important that we do at Scripps in terms of interdisciplinary, core curriculum, the growth of women as scholars and leaders and to see the program develop and grow in the way it has,” Marcus-Newhall said. “It does warm my heart to know I was a part of creating that and a part of what was accomplished.”

Kelly Hewitt, director of the Scripps College Academy, was a student facilitator in the program while a Scripps College student, graduated and became director.

“Since 1926, we’ve been a leader in women’s education,” Hewitt said. “This is an opportunity for us to empower middle school and high school women to be advocates for their education in the community and develop skills and experiences to be successful college students and graduates.”

What makes the program unique, Hewitt said, is the dedication of Scripps College faculty. “We have a community based program,” Hewitt said. “We all contribute. We have nearly 40 percent of the Scripps College faculty that have taught (the academy) over the years. Which means for our participants they are getting an amazing, intimate, intensive experience.”

Officials said the academy is for high achieving young women in the greater Los Angeles area, 90 percent of which are the first in their families to attend college. They have a two-week summer program on Scripps College followed up with year-round programs and support throughout high school.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities administers the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities.