Akins alumna Kassey Rocha (middle) and Olivia Tamzarian recieve award from First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House in November. The award recognized Mexic-Arte Museum’s Screen It! afterschool program.
When Kassey Rocha joined a screen printing internship program during her junior year at Akins, she had no idea that it would one day lead her to a chance to meet the First Lady in a ceremony at the White House.
On Nov. 15, Rocha represented Mexic-Arte Museum’s Screen It! program, which received the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s highest honor for these programs. It was recognized for its effectiveness in promoting learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the creative youth development programs.
Rocha was selected to represent the Mexic-Arte Museum’s program because she experienced all parts of the Screen It! program and showed strong leadership skills, said Olivia Tamzarian, the museum’s education coordinator.
“We selected her both to award her work and she is a great speaker and also because she’s bilingual and that was important for us to select a student who would be able to talk in Spanish about their experiences connecting to Mexican American cultures is one of the biggest things we do,” Tamzarian said.
The award 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.
Rocha said she learned the basics of screen printing along with business and leadership skills from being involved in the program and volunteering as a camp counselor.
“Not only did we get screen printing skills in the program, we just learned of a new art movement that we could use out of our own hobby. We could make money by selling t-shirts at times or posters,” Rocha said.
Rocha said it was overwhelming to visit the White House and meet First Lady Michelle Obama.
“It was like a rush, going through multiple security checks and entrances and then I was inside the White House! It honestly didn’t hit me until after and I remembered the many different historical figures that had walked those halls that I had been in, it makes me feel proud and excited,” Rocha said.
Rocha said she think Screen It! was recongized for the national award because it teaches students to not be afraid to pursue their dreams.
“It shows students the idea and takes away the stigma that art can only be a hobby, that it can also be a career,” she said.