First lady honors nonprofit


A pair of WMCAT video production students help conduct an interview. Courtesy WMCAT

A local arts and technology program caught the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Grand Rapids-based West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology, or WMCAT, is one of 12 organizations, and one of two located in Michigan, being recognized today at The White House by the first lady with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Obama will recognize the nonprofit for its Teen Arts + Tech Program, which is a “best practice, out-of-school-time experience” that engages high school students in the practical application of design thinking through hands-on learning in arts and tech labs. 

The awardees are being recognized for using “engagement in the arts and the humanities to generate a wide range of positive outcomes”: including increases in academic achievement; growth in graduation and college enrollment rates; improvements in literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills; and improvements in cultural awareness. 

Since 2005, the WMCAT Teen Arts + Tech Program has engaged more than 2,000 high school students in studio experiences in fine arts, technology and design.

WMCAT said 95 percent of WMCAT teen students have graduated high school on time, with 85 percent being accepted to college.

This past year, 93 percent of teen students said WMCAT “makes them believe they can be successful” in college and their careers.

WMCAT was selected out of 251 nominations and 50 finalists to receive the “highest honor” awarded to such programs in the U.S.

Detroit-based Sphinx Organization is the state’s other honoree.

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