Antioch University Los Angeles Alumna Wins 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal Award

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Dr. Margaret Martin receives nation’s second highest civilian honor for replacing violence in children’s lives with music.

Antioch University Los Angeles alumna Dr. Margaret Martin was honored with the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal Award, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. President Obama recognized her for bringing social change through music to youth in Los Angeles. Martin is the Founder and Director of National Expansion for the Harmony Project; which brings quality music instruction and ensemble playing to children living in high crime Los Angeles gang zones who otherwise would not have access to it. The Harmony Project complements music education with supporting resources and opportunities and fosters a community of families that actively support their children’s growth and development. Martin was one of 13 recipients to receive the award from President Obama.

“This year’s recipients of the Citizens Medal come from different backgrounds, but they share a commitment to a cause greater than themselves,” said President Obama. “They exemplify the best of what it means to be an American, and I am honored to be able to offer them a small token of our appreciation.”

Martin received her BA in Liberal Arts from Antioch University Los Angeles in 1990 and was chosen as the BA Commencement Speaker. “Antioch University Los Angles is respectful of life you led and what you have learned prior to becoming a student. It was a liberating perspective.” says Martin. “They believe in social justice and expect you to make a difference.”

After observing LA gang members stop at a Hollywood market to listen to a child playing Brahms on a small violin, Dr. Martin realized those gang members would rather be doing what the child was doing, but would never have the chance. She decided to dedicate her life to making quality arts education available to those in the most underserved, gang reduction zones of Los Angeles, and founded the Harmony Project in 2001. The organization has provided instruments and tuition-free group and private music lessons to thousands of children in Los Angeles who would otherwise have no access to music education. Through music, Harmony Project students learn discipline, persistence, confidence and accountability – habits of mind students need for success in music, in school – and throughout their lives. Through Harmony Project, students work with professional musician mentors five or more hours-a-week, year-round.

“I can’t be more thrilled with this award, because I set out to make healthy citizens,” adds Martin. “I am proud of Harmony Project for investing in people.”

Harmony Project commits to students for their entire youth, from early childhood through high school graduation. It is a joyful, cost-effective way to keep kids safe and in school while building healthier communities. Harmony Project students remain enrolled in school, and over the past four years 100% of Harmony Project high school seniors have graduated on time, in four years, and have gone on to college.

Harmony Project has built more than 10 orchestras and an institution in Los Angeles that is inspiring similar programs in communities throughout the country. In 2009, Harmony Project received the President’s Coming Up Taller Award, the nation’s highest honor for an arts-based youth program.

The Citizens Medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. This year nearly 6,000 public nominations were submitted. President Obama is recognizing Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention.

Antioch University Los Angeles (AULA) provides a rigorous progressive education to prepare students for the complexities of today's diverse societies. AULA, a not-for-profit institution, has served the greater Los Angeles area for almost 40 years. The core values of social justice, service to the community and lifelong learning lie at the heart of the B.A. degree completion program and master’s degree programs in organizational management, education and teacher credentialing, psychology, creative writing and urban sustainability. AULA is part of the Antioch University system which has roots dating back to 1852 and was recently named one of the top 20 colleges most committed to community service by USA Today. Inspired by the work of pioneering educator Horace Mann, Antioch University was founded in 1964 and serves over 5,000 adult students around the world and across the country, online and at five campuses in four states.

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