Three “Presidential Scholar in the Arts” nominations and a record of nine YoungArts finalists highlights New world school of the arts

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youngarts 2014 finalists Joshua Forges, Michaela Manzieri, Sebastian Ruiz, Gena Sims, Mika Rosenberg, Amy Hixson, Gabriela Diaz, Melanie RamosMIAMI – With nearly 245 YoungArts awards under its belt since doors opened in 1987, New World School of the Arts is proud to recognize the newest wave of YoungArtswinners comprised of nine Finalists, three Honorable Mentions and five MeritAwards, plus three Presidential Scholar in the Arts nominations. YoungArts Finalists: Gabriela Diaz, Joshua Forges, Darcy Hernandez, Amy Hixson, Michaela Manzieri, Melanie Ramos, Mika Rosenberg, Sebastian Ruiz, Gena Sims. Honorable Mention: Maya Hunter, Ana Remis, Emma Suman. Merit: Josh Bermudez, Jennie Coutrier, Jessica Fernandez, Jennifer Nouel, Melanie Ramos. Presidential Scholar in the Arts nominees: Gabriel Diaz, Joshua Forges, Mika Rosenberg.

Accepted into Harvard, Joshua Forges, who has also been nominated for the prestigious Presidential Scholar in the Arts distinction - one of the nation's highest honors for high school students - never imagined his art would earn him a place among the YoungArts finalists - "I almost didn't believe it because I had seen art as a 'distraction' from my intense love for academia, not as a plausible tool for my own creative development. Being a YoungArts finalist not only validated that years of figure drawing, painting, and sculpture classes hadpaid off but also introduced me to an entire community of other artists justlike me." Although Joshua highlights his interest in academia, he believes that there is a way to forge them for the greater good, and adds, "I hope to use art as a communicative and versatile means to teach others about thebeauty and emotional freedom that art offers as well as contribute to the science community by developing creative solutions to technical science problems. Since I am currently interested in neuroscience and chemistry, art can help me to develop and design new tools to enhance neurological brain function or even develop new ways of teaching or learning using visual communication."

Dancer Gabriela Diaz, also named among students nationwide vying for the 20 Presidential Scholar in the Arts title, has participated in various NWSA concerts performing works such as Adorations by Martha Graham, under the direction of Peter London, was mentored by Katherine Kramer during YoungArts Week, "The exposure to the wonderful teachers and mentors was a great way to establish connections in the dance world outside of the Miami community.This experience gave me the confidence to leave Miami and start a professional dance career." Gabriela plans to pursue dance and kinesiology in California and eventually join an agency to begin auditioning for commercial dance work.

“I am fascinated with the relationship between the digital and the physical and the way we communicate through electronics. My work is about machines that can build life,” explained Mika Rosenberg, the 17 year-old visual artist who attended YoungArts Week and has been nominated for the coveted President Scholar in the Arts award. Mika credits YoungArts for her newfound circle of mentors, “During YoungArts Week I had the opportunity to meet very influential people in the visual arts community such as James Rosenquist and Paola Antonelli. I have also learned the value of networking and building substantial relationships that will aid me in the future. I have met visual artists, cinematographers, writers, designers and performers at YoungArts, who are devoted to their practice. Some with whom I have built very strong relationships, opening up opportunities for future collaborations.” Mika’s future plans include pursuing a BFA and establishing her studio practice. She also wants to collaborate with artists “Who are involved in a community and do work for humanitarian reasons.” About her Presidential Scholar nomination Mika says, “It has validated my practice as an artist. To me it means that I was recognized in a room full of talented people. If I become a Presidential Scholar the most I could hope for is that in the future people will accept my work as they are now.”

Partaking in the intensive, just blocks away from NWSA, the Finalists had the opportunity to work with professional artists who not only offered invaluable artistic direction, but also encouraged the young artists to explore their inner selves and take risks with their work. "Being a YoungArts Finalist has been such an honor. Before I got the news, I had been experiencing a lot of self-doubt as an artist. YoungArts gave me the wakeup call I needed," said Gena Sims, a music theater major who most recently appeared as Mama in Once on this Island. Sims, who has been acting since the age of eleven, plans to continue to hone her craft - she adds, "I believe the best art is universal in its ability to connect, inspire, and move. I want to make art that brings audiences of all different backgrounds to the theater and connect them deeply to the performance."

Melanie Ramos, whose passion is modern dance, was mentored by Aubrey Lynch, former dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater during YoungArts Week. She highlights that the experience of attending the intensive with other artists from across the nation was life-changing. Ramos credits the education she received at NWSA, specifically in ballet and modern dance, and offers a piece of advice to other dancers just like herself  - “Don’t be so hard on yourself. YoungArts is a very hard thing to get accepted to but don’t think that you should stop yourself from doing what you want to do. Believe in yourself.”

Sebastian Ruiz’s portfolio earned him his spot among the YoungArts Finalists. The visual artist, who makes his own tools to create artwork through a portable studio he sets up around the city, notes the preparation that New World School of the Arts has given him to help him achieve this milestone, “New World continued to tell me to work on my portfolio and develop myself as an artist and as a creative person.” In turn, and after a week well spent with the likes of him, Ruiz offers similar words to YoungArts candidates, “Be true to yourself and always pursue what you love to do.”

About YoungArts: YoungArts was established in 1981 to identify emerging artists and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development, and to raise the appreciation for and support of the arts in American society. Each year since its inception in 1981, YoungArts,based in Miami and founded by Lin and Ted Arison of Carnival Cruises, selects more than 120 High School seniors from a pool of thousands of candidates nationwide and offers them the opportunity to travel to Miami to present their artistic talents and achievements. These fortunate few also receive cash awards of $100 to $10,000 per student, or scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 annually for four years to further enhance their artistic education. The objective of this institution is to identify talented arts students in their senior year in High School. The deadline to apply is October 1st of each year.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors selected on the basis of superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars and of those, 20 YoungArts winners are chosen to represent the arts. As U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, the scholars showcase their work at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, during the Presidential Scholars Medallion recognition ceremony held in the month of June. They also have the opportunity to participate in events and activities with their elected representatives,educators, and other leading individuals in public life.

About NWSA: In 1984 the Florida State Legislature established New World School of the Arts to provide artistically talented high school and college students the means for achieving both an academic education and artistic training and, in September 1986 opened its doors to trainees in grades ten through twelve. Over 3400 students of every ethnic and economic background have since attended NWSA’s arts programs. New World School of the Arts is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art, Dance, Music and Theater, and offers the high school diploma as well as four-year BFA and BM college degrees.

New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.

Photo credits: [Left to right/top to bottom] Joshua Forges, Michaela Manzieri, Sebastian Ruiz, Gena Sims, Mika Rosenberg, Amy Hixson, Gabriela Diaz, Melanie Ramos.