First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes
Chicago Shakespeare Theater at White House ceremony

National Arts and Humanities
Youth Program Award

Chicago Shakespeare’s partnership with Chicago Public Schools, CPS Shakespeare! receives nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs

Chicago—November 10, 2014—Today, at an official White House ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama presents Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) the prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation's highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. Representing CST, Marilyn J. HalperinDirector of Education and the Ray and Judy McCaskey Education Chair and program co-founder and director Kirsten Kelly are attending the ceremony. Ms. Halperin accepts the award in recognition of CPS Shakespeare!, CST’s arts-in-education partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Current CPS Shakespeare! participant and Prosser Career Academy junior, Jennifer Guadalupe Gonzalez has been selected as the student representative to address the gathered elected, civic and cultural leaders at the East Room ceremony. Ms. Gonzalez speaks to the transformative impact of her two years in the program on her development both academically and personally.

The signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYPA) recognizes the country’s best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s CPS Shakespeare! is one of only 12 programs honored from across the country this year from a wide range of urban and rural settings.

Developed by Marilyn Halperin and stage and film director Kirsten Kelly, CPS Shakespeare! empowers an intergenerational ensemble of CPS students and teachers—guided and supported by a full team of CST theater professionals—to master Shakespeare’s difficult text and create a fully produced play on Chicago Shakespeare’s stage. A national model for immersive arts-in-education programming, the Theater launched the initiative in 2006 as a way to reach students with untapped potential from under-resourced schools who were at risk of “falling through the cracks” socially or academically, sometimes facing adversities of poverty, gang-related violence or homelessness. As a partner in literacy with CPS for over two decades, Chicago Shakespeare serves over 40,000 students annually, promoting the 21st century skills of reading proficiency, effective communication and cultural awareness.

In her prepared remarks for the White House ceremony, 16-year-old Jennifer Guadalupe Gonzalez shared, “CPS Shakespeare! has honestly transformed me. It has made me see who the real me is--and that’s someone who is goofy and full of energy. In our ensemble, we are all such different people, but yet there is no worry about other people judging you. We come from every part of the city, and we’re all from different cultures. This program has made me notice every person out in the world. We are all human beings with feelings."

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities spearheads the award in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition to the recognition at the White House, all awardees receive $10,000 to further support programming.

For more information on Chicago Shakespeare’s arts-in-education programs, visit


Chicago Shakespeare will release official White House photo with First Lady Michelle Obama, CPS student Jennifer Gonzalez and CST Director of Education Marilyn Halperin on Monday, November 10, 2014 in the CST Press Room.

Program photos of CPS Shakespeare! are available for download here.


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