San Francisco Public Library

First Lady Michelle Obama Honors WriterCorps


San Francisco youth program is the only honoree from Northern California to receive prestigious award at the White House


Special Homecoming Reception with City Officials and Members of the Arts Commission and Library Commission Planned for Friday, October 22 at the Main Library


(San Francisco, CA), October 20, 2010 – WritersCorps, a project of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Public Library, was recognized with a prestigious national award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, October 20. The award honors WritersCorps for its effectiveness in developing creativity and fostering academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities. In addition to the national recognition bestowed by the prestigious award, WritersCorps will also receive $10,000 to support its programming. Nicole Zatarain Rivera, a 17-year-old participant in the program, accepted the award on behalf of WritersCorps. Members of the press are invited to a private reception celebrating this award with City officials, Arts Commissioners, Library Commissioners and community members, to be held October 22 at 9:00 a.m. at the San Francisco Main Library in the 6th floor Skylight Room. RSVP to Kate Patterson,


“We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but also in our community, as well,” said Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission.


Chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists, WritersCorps was one of 15 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly, the Coming Up Taller Award), the highest honor such programs can receive in the United States. The awards are administered by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.


“The San Francisco Public Library is very proud to partner with WritersCorps, delivering workshops that promote literacy and engage at-risk students in awakening their creative expression,” said Luis Herrera, City Librarian. “Their poetry and prose inspire us and demonstrate the wonderful talent inherent in the young people of our city.”


WritersCorps was recognized by Mrs. Obama for improving the writing skills and self-confidence of young people. Ninety percent of students participating in WritersCorps demonstrate improved literacy skills at the end of the program. Accepting the award from Mrs. Obama on behalf of WritersCorps was Nicole Zatarain Rivera, a 17-year-old participant in the program, who was accompanied to the White House by Melissa Hung, WritersCorps Program Manager.


“I will never forget what it was like to meet First Lady Michelle Obama,” said Nicole, a 12th grader at International Studies Academy. “I feel honored to accept the award for WritersCorps, which has helped me so much. It has given me a place to express myself and to become more confident.”


San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom congratulated WritersCorps on the award and its impact in transforming the lives of young people in San Francisco. “WritersCorps is an exemplary City program that engages and inspires young people to use creative thinking and express themselves constructively. These are exactly the kinds of skills we want young people to have in order to succeed in school, in work and in life,” said the Mayor.


In preparing for the White House visit, Red Carpet Bay Area, a magazine-style TV program that airs on KRON4, sponsored a fashion makeover for Nicole Zatarain Rivera, the WritersCorps student. Show host Marybeth La Motte and writer-producer Jan Mabry brought together fashion and beauty experts who donated their time and products. Keneuoe Vivere, a Berkeley, CA-based clothing designer, donated a custom-made outfit to Nicole. Also donating products and services to Nicole were Elevation Salon in San Francisco, Byer California, and Nyx Cosmetics.


WritersCorps Award Reception

What: Members of the press are invited to a private reception celebrating this award with City officials, Arts Commissioners, Library Commissioners and community members.

When: Friday, October 22, 9 to 10 a.m.

Where: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, 6th Floor, Skylight Gallery

 RSVP: Kate Patterson,, 415-252-4638


About the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award 

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth. The awards recognize and support outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline and academic success, with demonstrable results. They also provide safe harbors after school, on weekends and evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings. For more information, visit 


About WritersCorps

WritersCorps places professional writers in community settings to teach creative writing to youth. Since its inception in 1994, the program has helped over 16,000 young people from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. WritersCorps is a joint project of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Public Library, and part of a national alliance with sites in the Bronx and Washington, DC. WritersCorps conducts workshops at public schools, libraries, community organizations, and the Juvenile Justice Center, offering creative expression as an alternative to violence, truancy and alcohol and drug abuse. For more information about WritersCorps, please visit