Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Expect the Unexpected...

It's been a busy past few weeks, and a definite test of my ability to go with the flow. I FINALLY finished up my finals for this semester (agonizing but well worth it), which was a huge relief. I had planned a holiday party for Saturday 12/19, but as many of you know, Brooklyn (and most of NYC) got an insane snowstorm on Saturday, which kept many of my party guests from attending. A special thanks to the troopers who braved the storm to make it to my party! It was a small group, but I got the chance to reunite with some of my Miss NY sisters, and make cards to be donated to a NY shelter. The cards were a fun and inexpensive way to send a little holiday cheer to a fellow New Yorker who was down on their luck. Many soup kitchens, nursing homes and hospitals will welcome these thoughtful gifts, so go on- host your own holiday card party!

If you're looking for a last minute way to give without breaking the bank this holiday season, please consider the Brooklyn Public Library's Adopt-A- Book program! For as low as $5.99, you can purchase a new book to be put on the shelves of a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library! If you'd like, you can pick out which book you donate, or if you don't have a preference, you can simply make a dontation and the library will purchase a needed selection!

Warmest Holiday Wishes!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Stocking Project with Services for the Underserved AND Photo Shoot with MoDeZinz

The holiday season is officially upon us! As if this time of year weren't hectic enough, it's also finals time for those of us in school! My schedule has been insane, but in a good way! I've had a lot of really great opportunities in the past few weeks, and though I'm a trifle overwhelmed, I'm certainly grateful!

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I participated in Services for the Underserved's Holiday Stocking Drive- this year contributing two stockings-one from me, one from my mom (pictured above) for two adults living with developmental disabilities. It's pretty amazing how easy and affordable (my stocking and it's contents totaled $15) it can be to extend a gesture of kindness to a stranger in need.

I traveled upstate to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to reunite with Monica Dodge, an old friend who has become a gifted photographer in the years since I last saw her. We did a quick shoot, and incorporated some Miss Brooklyn elements (crown, sash and my Miss NY gown). Below are a few of the photos from the shoot! Be sure to check out the rest of her work at www.modezinz.com


It was so nice to spend a few days with my mom and sisters on my trip upstate. My family and I have gotten into the tradition of finding a project to volunteer for on the holidays, and it serves as a wonderful reminder of all we have to be thankful for. On Thanksgiving day, my sisters and I, our boyfriends and my mom headed to Schenectady to help out at the City Mission. We joined the assembly line and helped stuff and wrap over 100 care packages, to be distributed to a local apartment complex that houses individuals and families with a variety of special circumstances.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as enjoyable as mine, and I look forward to updating you on some exciting opportunities and events coming up involving arts education!



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Article from the Harvard Crimson

Project Zero Returns to Square One of Artistic Education

“Everybody assumes that to be a scientist or a mathematician requires thinking and problem solving and so on. But a lot of people assume the arts are just a matter of inspiration, or God giving you a message, or primarily about emotions,” says Howard E. Gardner, a former co-director and one of twelve Principal Investigators of Project Zero, a research group at the Graduate School of Education.

Founded by philosopher Nelson Goodman in 1967, Project Zero claims its mission is “to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines.” In the aftermath of the success of the Soviet Sputnik space program, Americans focused on determining ways in which people in the scientific disciplines learned. Project Zero was created in response to this move to emphasize scientific instruction, which its founders felt unfairly ignored learning through the arts. The group’s name refers to Goodman’s belief that nothing—or “zero”—had then been established about how learning happens in the arts. Goodman accepted an offer to run Project Zero with the idea that it would combat assumptions about artistic practice and ameliorate the lack of rigor in cognitive investigations of arts education.

Many of the major ideas which emerged from Project Zero in its first two decades of existence were a result of its focus on the arts, which in turn greatly influenced the field of arts education. One of these theories, developed during the mid-1980s, is that of “teaching for understanding.” This idea draws on an inherent characteristic of the arts, as it suggests that individuals demonstrate true understanding of a concept only when they are able to put it into action. “It borrows the idea of performance from the arts. It says, ‘It’s not what you know, but what you can do with what you know,’” says Shari Tishman, the current Director of Project Zero.

These concepts began Project Zero’s transformation from what had been a primarily theoretical enterprise into a more applied, hands-on organization. “I guess my sense is that Project Zero has always been interested in that line between—the bridge between—theory and practice,” says Principal Investigator Mara Krechevsky.

More recently, this emphasis on application has grown to encompass many of the toughest questions in education today, both arts-related and not. Much of their current research, such as teaching children to understand complex causality, can be applied across a number of subjects. Principal Investigator Tina A. Grotzer provides an example of the latter: “Kids come into the cafeteria, and they talk a little louder to be heard over the person next to them…and pretty soon the lunch lady’s yelling at them. They’re all upset because it’s not their fault…their intentions are just to be heard,” she says.

Grotzer explains that this situation provides an analogy for the current state of climate change, which has escalated to a dangerous degree because of the cumulative effects of heedless individual actions.
“It’s taking those understandings that kids have today and helping them live better in the world they’re going to live in tomorrow,” she says.

Though Project Zero has broadened its scope significantly in recent years, it has not lost sight of its roots in the arts and how arts-oriented programs can contribute to improving the future, specifically that of education.
“I’m personally very interested in looking at how art can help young people understand the power of thinking,” says Tishman, the Principal Investigator of Artful Thinking. Artful Thinking was developed to help teachers integrate art into the classroom, and to use analytical thinking about art to encourage similar ways of thinking in other subjects. The “Artful Thinking Palette,” which includes concepts such as “reasoning,” “comparing” and “finding complexity,” suggests a number of aspects of thinking which art may help cultivate.

According to Gardner, Project Zero is constantly looking ahead to the future of education. “We need to have entities that try to imagine what education could be like, instead of tinkering at the edges,” he says. The group’s progressive perspective has led it to identify globalization, the digital revolution, and the biological revolution (the rapidly changing understanding of how the brain functions), as three important points that will transform education for this generation of students.

“Clearly the digital revolution makes possible new media. In terms of Project Zero, one of the things we’ve learned from the digital revolution is that we can’t just think of canonical art forms—dance, theater; we have to think of other art forms that are arising because of digital possibilities,” Tishman says. “The digital revolution makes possible certain kinds of tools that provide opportunities to engage in the arts much more widely and in different ways.”

While the foundational focus on the arts has contributed to the formulation of its larger theories, ultimately the goal of Project Zero is to advance education as a whole.

“When you’re saying there is this whole bunch of things that people need to learn, and they need to learn them well, and all these diverse students need to be able to learn them well, it’s like trying to plant a field without having the seeds,” Grotzer says. “You have to know what to do to nourish them, to make them grow. Unless you know what to do on the ground, you aren’t going to change education.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Six Practical Reasons Arts Education is More Than a Luxury

Please enjoy this article from The Washington Post I received as a part of the Association of Teaching Artists' Digest. It does a great job outlining all the reasons why the arts NEED to be a part of every child's education.

Six Practical Reasons Arts Education is More Than a Luxury

By Daniel Willingham

Johns Hopkins University and the Dana Foundation hosted a conference titled “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts and the Brain.” As the title implies, the goal was to bring together researchers considering, from an educational point of view, the impact of the arts on the brain. A book-length summary of the May conference just became available as a free pdf, available here.

Some great neuroscientists participated, including Mike Gazzaniga, Liz Spelke, and Mike Posner. The keynote speaker was Jerry Kagan, one of the leading researchers in developmental psychology. His address offered six reasons that the arts should be included in school curricula.
Kagan commented that Americans are pragmatists. They respect endeavors that cure a disease or make money, and they view the arts as luxuries. Kagan was careful to point out that his arguments stuck to the practical.

First, he estimated that something like 95% of children are capable of doing the work necessary to obtain a high school diploma, yet the dropout rate hovers around 25%. Too many of these students quit because they decide (usually in about the fourth grade) that school is not the place for them. This decision is based largely on their perception of their performance in reading and mathematics. The arts, Kagan argues, offers such students another chance to feel successful, and to feel that they belong at school.

Second, Kagan argues that children today have very little sense of agency—that is, the sense that they undertake activities that have an impact on the world, however small. Kagan notes that as a child he had the autonomy to explore his town on his own, something that most parents today would not allow. When not exploring, his activities were necessarily of his own design, whereas children today would typically watch television or roam the internet, activities that are frequently passive and which encourage conformity. The arts, Kagan argues, offer that sense of agency, of creation.

Third, Kagan argues that the arts offer a unique means of communication, using representations in the mind other than words, which are at the core of most school subjects. Kagan offers an evocative personal example. He had read about the distinction in Japanese culture between two modes of social interaction. One emphasizes politeness, and one cannot always express all that one thinks. In the other mode, appropriate for intimate associations, one may speak freely. Kagan noted that his understanding of this distinction was much richer after viewing paintings at the Tokyo museum that used this theme, for example, one of two gulls flying, one with its feet visible, the other with its feet tucked out of sight. The arts communicate in ways that words do not.

Fourth, participation in the arts allows children to see the importance of creating beauty, of creating an object that others may enjoy. When a child gets an A on a math test, the immediate benefit is to the child alone. But when the child creates a drawing, she makes something for the pleasure of others as well.

Fifth, the arts offer an opportunity for children to work together. Most school work is solitary, but when a band is congratulated for a performance it is the band as a whole that receives the compliment, not the individual child. Kagan ties this value to a larger moral complex. Too many of children’s activities are solitary, and solely for the child’s benefit. Morality and concern for others grows, in part, from understanding what it means to have a common fate.

Sixth, the arts provide a chance for children to express feelings that they otherwise might be unable to express. Kagan cites data showing health benefits for this sort of self-expression; several studies have shown that writing, even briefly, about emotional conflicts reduces illness and increases feelings of well-being. Kagan proposes that similar benefits might accrue from artistic expression.

Yes, core subjects like reading, math, history, civics, geography, and science are important. But the arts should not be treated as a luxury to be indulged should time allow.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Website/ New Director

Just a quick update: Amaris Acosta has taken over the ED duties of the Miss Brooklyn Organization. She can be reached at: missbrooklynorg@gmail.com

Check out the new website: www.missbrooklyn.org

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Quick Belated Congratulations!

I meant to include this in the Brightest Star post, as it happened the same evening, and then I promptly forgot!

Congratulations to Jennifer Scacco, Miss Staten Island 2010! You have big shoes to fill, and Kim Cantoni, Miss Staten Island 2009, will be greatly missed. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful year!

(L- Kim Cantoni, Miss Staten Island 2009, R- Jennifer Scacco, Miss Staten Island 2010)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Brightest Star- Calvin Greene

From L to R, Alyse Zwick (Miss NY 2009), Amanda Mason (Miss Metropolitan 2009), Melanie Gowrie (Miss Brooklyn's Outstanding Tenn 2009), Calvin Green (Block Institute's First Brightest Star), Me, and Inga (Miss Manhattan 2009) at the Block Institute's Brightest Star Awards Gala

Sorry about the belated nature of this post- I've been swamped with school and work and my internship! This past weekend, Block Institute held it's first Brightest Star Awards Gala, to recognize the outstanding achievements of the adults that Block Institute serves, all of whom are living with developmental disabilities. After walking the red carpet, each finalist was featured in a video segment highlighting their achievements. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the judges to choose ONE finalist to represent Block Institute for the year- it was an incredibly impressive group. Congratulations to Calvin Green, who captured the title of the first annual Brightest Star! And a special thanks to Dr. Manhattan (Matt) and the Baron of Brooklyn (Joe), for being awesome boyfriends and volunteering at the event! You made very handsome escorts! And another special thanks to my mom for driving down to Brooklyn to attend!

At left, Matt escorting Hanan. At right, Inga escorting Hoa Hua.

At left, Kim escorting Calvin(who would later take the title of the Brightest Star)! At right, Joe escorting Benita.

Joe and I walking the red carpet!

Catching up with some of my MNY 2009 sisters! It's always a pleasure to spend time with these ladies!

With Joe Carrera, talent finalist, and my partner for the mentoring process.

Thank you to Todd of Block Institute, Kim (Miss Brooklyn ED), and Jeff (head of documentary), for working diligently to put together what will surely become a cherished tradition!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Community Word Project

You may have heard me mention the internship/ training program I was accepted to earlier this fall in previous posts. I'd like to take a moment to explain exactly what it is I'm doing, and with whom, because I'm excited about this program!

Community Word Project was founded in 1994 by Michele Kotler in Chicago. "Believing strongly in the role of the arts and creative expression in facilitating social change and building future community leaders, she set out to create opportunities for young people to develop and share their visions with one another and their communities." The project was soon moved to NYC, where it has remained. 

Community Word Project provides students real, meaningful interactions with art by placing practicing artists in the classroom, charged with the goal of sharing their artform in a meaningful and socially relevant way. 

Community Word Project also hosts a fantastic Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program, which I began in September. This Thursday, I'll begin the internship portion of the program at PS 27 in Brooklyn, and I can't wait!

For more information on Community Word Project, please check out their website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

STAYING IN SCHOOL- Arts Education and NYC High School Graduation Rates

As an art educator, I understand that one of the biggest obstacles in getting funding and support for quality arts education in public schools is the often intangible nature of its benefits. Because of the abstract and asomatous qualities of art and art-therapy, it's often difficult to produce immediate and easily discernble research that proves the good art can do. And this is why I, along with other arts educators, jump for joy every time a new study produces documented, peer-reviewed evidence that supports the case we make daily. An October 2009 Report from the Center for Arts Education entitled "Staying in School- Arts Education and NYC High School Graduation Rates" studied over 200 NYC high schools over a two-year period, and found that those schools with the most certified arts teachers, dedicated and appropriately equipped arts classrooms and arts and cultural projects had the HIGHEST graduation rates in the city. Click on the link above to read the full report. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Block Institute's Brightest Star Awards Gala

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm working with Block Institute on it's inaugural Brightest Star Award- a pageant that recognizes outstanding achievement in the developmentally disabled community. The program pairs up outstanding members of the Block Institute community with mentors from the pageant community who prepare them for stage, and a Brightest Star is selected out of the ten finalists who best embodies the core values of the program (Spirit, Leadership, Wellness, Talent, Independence, Mastery, Fellowship, Citizenship, Growth and Community). I'm mentoring Joseph Carerra, talent finalist, and I had the privilege of meeting him in person for the first time last week at Block Institute! Joe's a gifted visual artist (and a pretty snazzy dancer), and I look forward to getting to know him better through this process!

Joseph and I with his sister, Rosemary, at a Brightest Star Rehearsal

The Brightest Star Awards Gala will be held a Block Institute on Saturday, November 14th from 7:30-10p at Block Institute (376 Bay 44th St, Brooklyn). If you're interested in attending, tickets are $20, and can be purchased through Anne Marie Russo (718-906-5414, amrusso@blockinstitute.org)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Holiday Stocking Project with Services for the Under-Served

Just a quick post to let you know about an amazing project I took part in last year, and will be participating in again this year:

Services for the Underserved, a NYC-based non-profit that helps individuals and families that face a variety of issues such as mental illness, developmental or physical disability, homelessness, AIDS, unemployment or poverty, hosts an annual "Holiday Stocking Drive", where they assign volunteers to an individual/ individuals (you can do more than one stocking if you'd like) and provide volunteers with some basic info about the client you'll be making a stocking for. Volunteers then create a stocking to be mailed to their client or dropped off at the SUS office in Chelsea. The stocking can be filled with small gifts, toiletries, gift-certificates, stationary, toy... It's not about any particular religious holiday and it's not about spending lots of money- it's simply a gesture of compassion to someone who needs it. The usual range of stocking value is $25-$50, but you give what you can. I did a lot of bargain shopping for my stocking last year, and including the stocking itself, spent just under $20.

If you'd like to get involved, simply e-mail Sarah Petrey at volunteer@susinc.org, and include your name, address, phone number and number of stockings you'd like to create. Stockings must be mailed out or dropped off by December 4th.

"The Reality: No one has the answers; Everyone has the Responsibility"

As I mentioned earlier, I'm slightly obsessed with TED, and since subscribing to their "TEDTalks" podcast, I've come across approximately ONE HUNDRED MILLION videos I'd like to share with you. For the sake of time and cohesiveness, I promise to keep what I post on here related to arts in education or the Miss America Organization in general (though feel free to contact me if you'd like suggestions on some other TEDTalks to check out!) Please enjoy Liz Coleman's riveting discussion on some of the issues that face our liberal education system today, and what changes must be made now to alter the course that American pedagogy is currently barreling down.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Arts in Education?

I'm swamped with homework, but since my educational endeavors are so closely related to my platform, I'm constantly finding things I want to blog about. I recently stumbled across this excerpt from Larry O'Farrell's essay "Writing Arts Curriculum in a Public Sector-Private Sector Partnership", which explains quite succinctly how beneficial the arts are in education.

"Experiences in the arts -- drama, dance, media arts, music and the visual arts -- play a valuable role in the education of all students. The arts nourish the imagination and develop a sense of beauty, while providing unique ways for students to gain insights into the world around them. All of the arts communicate through complex symbols-- verbal, visual and aural -- and help students understand aspects of life in different ways. Students gain insights into the human condition through exposure to works of art. They can imagine what it would be like to be in the same situation as a character in a play, an opera, or a painting, and try to understand that character's point of view. They identify common values, both aesthetic and human, in various works of art, and in doing so, increase their understanding of others and learn that the arts can have a civilizing influence on society. In producing their own works, they communicate their insights while developing artistic skills and aesthetic judgment. Since artistic activities are closely connected to play and human interaction, students experience a sense of wonder and joy when engaged in the arts, which can motivate them to participate more fully in cultural life and in other educational opportunities."

Friday, October 9, 2009


The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development have recently announced the availability of After-School Arts Partnership awards; $5000 one time grants for city-funded after-school programs to create cultural art projects. The deadline to apply for this generous grant is 10/15/09, so if you know anyone involved in a city-funded after-school program, pass this info on to them FAST! The application can be found here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Busy on Columbus Day?

If you're free in on Monday, 10/12, and you're looking for a fun way to spend the evening, get an awesome free dinner in TriBeCa, and help make a difference, then listen up! I've been invited to attend PFLAG NYC's Annual Dinner & Fundraiser by my friend Claire (Miss Jubilee), who's an activist with this group. She informed me that they're still looking for volunteers and in-kind donors, so read the excerpt from her blog, below, and send an email to: MissJubilee2009@gmail.com or ks@pflagnyc.org .

VOLUNTEERS for the PFLAG NYC Annual Dinner & Fundraiser

Monday, October 12 at Tribeca Rooftop (2 Debrosses Street, NYC), 6pm-10pm

We need volunteers to work the silent auction, the VIP cocktail reception, greet people, etc. You get a free GOURMET meal!! (I've been on the tasting committee...wow, you're in for a treat - email me for a menu) There is a volunteer training meeting on Wednesday, October 7 6:30-8 at the PFLAG NYC Office at the GMHC Building 119 W. 24th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues) 9th Floor Board Room. Please RSVP by contacting Kara at 646-403-3682 or via email ks@pflagnyc.org. Even if you cannot attend the meeting, but can volunteer for the dinner, we need you! Email Kara (or me).

IN-KIND DONATIONS for the PFLAG NYC Annual Dinner & Fundraiser

If you are a local business owner, or have any services you'd like to donate to the dinner auction, please contact me with details or Drew Tagliabue dt@pflagnyc.org

Silent and Live Auction Contributions
Past auctions have covered the range - from a week in a Tuscan villa to theatre tickets and dinner for two to goods and services of many local businesses. Donors will be recognized at the auction, in the dinner journal, in the PFLAG NYC Newsletter. If you are not able to make a donation in-kind, consider also making a tax-deductible gift to PFLAG NYC for the purpose of the auction and we'll do the shopping for you!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Atlantic Antic

With Melanie Hope Greenberg, author/ illustrator of Mermaids on Parade!

With Tammy Hall, storyteller, at the Atlantic Antic!

With the ladies of GUMBO (493 Atlantic Ave), after reading a few stories to the kids!

Reading Melanie Hope Greenberg's Mermaids on Parade!

What a day! And it's only 3p! I arrived at the Atlantic Antic a bit early to scope out the scene, and sample some of the delicious street fair food offerings. Have I mentioned that I LOVE STREET FAIR FOOD? At around 12:30p, a nice little crowd had gathered in front of GUMBO, lured in by the incredible talents of Tammy Hall, a local storyteller. I was up after Melanie, and I read first her fantastic book, Mermaids on Parade. I then read Two Bad Mice- one of my favorite tales from The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter. I took a brief trip up and down the street fair, and though there was still lots to see and do, headed home (but not before picking up a cupcake and kettlecorn for Joe). I have an ominous pile of homework staring at me from across the room, so it's a good thing I got all my fun in earlier!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and my good friend Inga (Miss Manhattan), passed some important information to me that I'd like to share with you. From 11a-2p on 10/11, Lynn Calat, NP, of Midwood Wellness and Lutheran Medical Center (Brooklyn) will be offering free breast cancer screenings.

About Lynn:

"At the Midwood Wellness, I will provide compassionate and comprehensive care, to women of all ages. Whether it's your first gynecological exam or you are entering the preliminary stages of menopause and beyond. I will provide a safe haven with time to listen and deliver individualized care...I look forward to helping you achieve your goal of overall health and well being" -Lynn Calat Latino

Her services include:
Routine Gynecologic Exams
Pap Smears
HPV Screening
Family Planning
Birth Control
Adolscent Health
Perimenopause and beyond
Alternative Medicine

She also has medical aesthetic services like Botox and Cosmetic Fillers.

1318 Avenue H
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Phone: 718-434-0081

Living in an area as populous and diverse and Brooklyn, I understand how intimidating it can be to attempt to navigate the vast sea of medical care providers available. Selecting a practice from a long list at random is incredibly unnerving, and I know it meant a lot to me to hear first hand from my local friends who they had seen, and why they liked them. Referrals are valuable, and Inga was incredibly enthusiastic about Ms. Calat both as a person and a medical professional. Thanks for the info, Inga!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Upcoming Event: Atlantic Antic 2009!

This weekend, I'll be joining in the celebration of Brooklyn's 35th Annual Atlantic Antic!

Think street fair, but bigger, and with live entertainment, face painting, pony rides, and vendors who's stuff you actually WANT to buy! Awesome! The Atlantic Antic runs along Atlantic Ave from the Hill (4th Ave, Boreum Hill) to the Heights (Hicks St, Brooklyn Heights), from 10-6p RAIN OR SHINE this Sunday, October 4th. I'll be at the kiddie store GUMBO (493 Atlantic Ave) at 12p, where I'll join Melanie Hope Greenberg (a Brooklyn-based illustrator and author of children's books), to help her read some of her favorites, including Mermaids On Parade, about Coney Island's own Mermaid Parade!

In case you weren't aware, I am OBSESSED with street fairs. Truly. I. CANNOT. WAIT. See you there! I'll be the one reading Mermaids on Parade, and then stuffing my face with mozzarepas, roasted corn and crepes!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A little bit of everything...

Life is good. It's been a busy but AMAZING past few days, and I wanted to share the excitement with you!

As I mentioned in my last post, school has officially started, and I'm very lucky to be doing four independent studies this semester that are 100% in line with what I want to do with my life! Next semester, however, I will be cramming in my last few gen-ed requirements that I THOUGHT I had already taken care of. Sigh... But until then, school is great!

I've also begun my new job at the YWCA-NYC's after-school program at PS 209, where I serve as the dance specialist and a 5th grade counselor. The kids are AWESOME.

And new since last we spoke, I've been accepted into the Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program at the Community Word Project of NYC! YAAAAAY! I applied for this back in early August, and just heard the news this AM. CWP's TATIP (abbreviations totally necessary) will give me even more insight into effective integration of arts in education, along with practical experience in NYC classrooms! AWESOME!

This doesn't mean I'll be shirking on my Miss Brooklyn responsibilities, however! Saturday night, I attended the first Miss Black Manhattan Scholarship Pageant, directed by Christina Joseph, who has previously competed in the Miss New York Program, and who choreographed the opening number for Miss Brooklyn this year! I also got a chance to catch up with my friends, Inga (Miss Manhattan) and LaMonica Falkquay, who was one of my Miss NY 2008 sisters! Here's a photo of Melanie and I with Pamela, the newly crowned Miss Black Manhattan 2009!

WARNING- My inner geek is about to surface. I wanted to share an awesome video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking at the 2006 TED Conference, which I WILL ATTEND one day- perhaps as a speaker (seriously, it is without a doubt within my top 3 life goals). For those of you unfamiliar with TED , it can most simply be described as a community and annual conference celebrating ideas and innovations in a variety of fields that will change the way we live and think. Is that a gross over-simplification and incredibly vague definition? Yes, but TED is sort of hard to explain. The spectrum on which the speakers and presentations at TED each year span is tremendous. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with Sir Ken Robinson, let it suffice to say he's a saucy Brit with a brilliant mind who is revolutionizing the way we think about the arts in education (and he's been knighted- so there!). Some of his most popular quotes came from this very presentation, and trust me- it's 18 minutes well spent! (Fun fact- all TED presentations are 18 minutes long).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Judging the Miss Fonda Fair Pageant and Mentoring with Block Institute's Brightest Star Program

At the Miss Fonda Fair Pageant with the newly crowned Junior Miss Fonda Fair, Corey Lais!

Courtney (Miss Fulton County) and myself congratulating the new Princess Fonda Fair, Kaylee Cappuccio!

Long time, no talk! I wanted to squeeze out one last long blog before I officially dive into the craziest semester EVER! (Four- 4 credit advanced level completely self-constructed independent studies). In addition to my studies, I'm thrilled to announce my new position with the YWCA-NYC as Dance Specialist at PS 209's After School Program! I'll still be working part-time at the pilates studio in Manhattan, and rejoining the Niall O'Leary School of Irish Dance after my summer hiatus (many thanks to Niall, for his un-ending "Coming to lessons this week?" emails). AND, either this week or next week, I'll be beginning my work with the students of Block Institute through Building Blocks- a drama program for students ages 4-7! YEAH DRAMA!

But before I get a head of myself, let's backtrack. Recently, I had the honor of judging the Miss Fonda Fair Pageant, in Fonda, NY (near where I grew up). This was the first pageant I ever competed in, and becoming Miss Fonda Fair in 2002 (and later Miss Fonda Fair Scholarship Queen in 2008), introduced me to the Miss America Organization.

I would like to start off by saying this: JUDGING IS AGONIZINGLY HARD! And probably something I won't do again in the near future, because I had the toughest time assigning scores to girls who have the courage to get up on stage, tell the world a little about themselves and ask to be considered for the job of representative and role model. I also have a hard time scoring the younger ones on appearance and presentation, knowing that a five year old has absolutely nothing to do with what dress she is wearing and how her hair looks and whether or not she's wearing makeup! She's FIVE! Her mom styled her! How can I judge her on the efforts of someone else?! Can't they all win? Am I alone in this? Maybe I'm just not cut out to be a judge...

None of this is to detract from the amazing benefits the Miss Fonda Fair Contestants reap from participating. The ability to speak comfortably in front of a large group of people is truly invaluable, and we cannot expend enough energy convincing young women that they are important and interesting, their contributions are valuable, and they have something to offer the world.

I've said it approximately a million times, and I'll say it again: Pageants can be relevant. Pageants can be important. Pageants can change lives. Not enough attention is paid to the fact that some pageants celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of women as individuals, and award the person who's unique achievements and attributes best suit the job of a titleholder. This stands in stark contrast to the widely held (and sometimes true) belief that pageant participants spend countless hours trying to force themselves into a mold of what the perfect titleholder should be. I cannot stress enough that of all the things I've learned competing in the Miss America Organization, one of the most important is a strong sense of who I am, what I stand for, and what my goals are for myself; Keelie Ashlen Sheridan; Gemini, liberal, Irish, carnivore, artist, student, idealist, advocate, etc, etc... And that's pretty cool. I know myself a lot better now than when I started competing, and the Miss America Organization has helped me find my voice, and given me a platform on which to stand and tell the world who I am and what I care about, and why they should care, too.

Pageants, in their varying existing forms, are not for everyone, though, which is why I'm thrilled to announce an opportunity for a new population to reap the benefits of pageants. Block Institute, in partnership with the Miss Brooklyn Organization, will hold it's first annual Brightest Star Competition this fall. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you're familiar with the work Block Institute does. If not, I encourage you to take a moment to check out their website. Through various services and programs, Block Institute serves individuals of all ages who are living with disabilities. The Brightest Star Program is a competition designed to recognize the outstanding individuals (both male and female) in Block Institute's community who exemplify the following categories:

Spirit, Leadership, Wellness, Talent, Independence, Mastery,
Fellowship, Citizenship, Growth, Community

Ten finalists were selected last night at the preliminary reception (out of a field of 32 applicants- bigger than any pageant I'VE ever competed in!), and each finalist will be paired with a member of the pageant community (current and former titleholders, directors, contestants...), who will work with them as a mentor to prepare for the Final Gala on November 12th (save the date!), where each finalist will be judged on their finals night presentation, in addition to a 3 minute video to be filmed by the documentary film crew covering the project. I just got off the phone with Kim Thomas (former Miss Brooklyn ED and co-director of the Brightest Star program), and I'm thrilled to have been paired with Hanan Makovitski- Wellness Finalist, and Joseph Carrera- Talent Finalist!

Todd Adelman of Block Institute has big plans for the Brightest Star Program, and hopes to grow from a one-institute program to a nationwide event! Wish us luck!

That's all for now! Photos from the events mentioned above and a video from the Miss Fonda Fair pageant are forth-coming!



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good Luck to New York's Sweetheart, Inga Schlingmann!

Labor Day Weekend, our very own Inga Schlingmann, Miss Manhattan, will represent New York at the National Sweetheart Pageant in Hoopeston, Illinois. For those of you unfamiliar with the Sweetheart Pageant, it's essentially a mock-Miss America, with many of the 1st runners up to the Miss America state pageants competing. I've heard it's great fun, and the group makes plenty of appearances while staying with host families.

I've seen Inga's new gown by Chen-Huai Chuang who made her Miss NY gown, and IT IS STUNNING. That, coupled with the facts that this girl is fiercely intelligent, ridiculously talented, and stunningly beautiful (see exhibit A ^), I have no doubt she will make a lot of people say, "Wow- have you seen New York?" Good luck, girl! Make us proud!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Exciting News on the Platform-Front: A Brief Update

I'll admit, I've been a bit lax with my blogging lately, but don't think it's because I have nothing to write about! Quite the contrary- I've been so busy I've had a hard time keeping up! Here's just a brief update on the exciting things going on right now.

I've partnered up with Block Institute in Gravesend, Brooklyn, to develop a performing arts curriculum addition for their students ages 4-7. Block Institute serves students with developmental disabilities, and there's substantial research that supports the idea that dramatic arts facilitate strong personal and educational development in special populations groups, such as kids living with disabilities. I'll be developing a creative improvisation program linked with the existing curriculum which will culminate in a performance at the school in November. More details to follow.

I'm also doing several independent studies this semester as I begin my senior year at Empire State College to deepen my understanding of using drama as a therapeutic and educational tool. I'll also be studying theatre as a tool for social change, about which I am very excited. There are a lot of amazing groups out there that use drama to educate and promote change, and I'm thrilled to learn more! Again, more details to follow.

And finally, check out this video from the Sean Casey Animal Rescue Fundraiser I attended. It gives you a feel for the type of work Sean Casey does (and I'm in it at appx 2:25).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Miss Thousand Islands 2010 and Brooklyn Independent Television Appearance

What kind of sisters would we be if we didn't make a sign with an incredibly unflattering photo and an embarassing nickname?

With some of the Miss NY Class of '09! From L to R, Katie Birchenough- Miss Empire Rose; Angela Galasso- Miss Lewis County, Me, Kristan Lettiere- Miss Thousand Islands, Courtney Sheridan- Miss Fulton County, and Lynn Tryon- Miss Mohawk Valley.

Waiting to get our photos taken with Miss Thousand Islands 2010!

With Kristina Ferris- Miss Thousand Islands 2010

Because no pageant would be complete without a sassy Sheridan photo...

This past weekend, I traveled up to Clayton, NY for the Miss Thousand Islands 2010 pageant! "Where's Clayton?", my fellow Brooklynites might ask. Upstate. REALLY far upstate. Like, a stone's throw from Canada (literally)- farther north than Binghamton, Albany, Ithaca, Syracuse, Watertown and practically every other major upstate city you can name. It was a 3 hour drive from my mom's house in Fort Plain to Clayton, but an attractive 3 hour drive, so I didn't mind. I find that I miss the Adirondack area most in the summer, where it can easily be 10 degrees cooler than the city. Irony is talking on the phone with your mom who's complaining about how chilly it is that evening, while you're literally peeling your sweaty body off the subway seat...

Clayton = beautiful. Such a picturesque little waterfront town; I was reminded of downtown Lake George (over in Warren County, for those of you who've never been), but with more water... We noshed on "the best pizza in the Thousand Islands area" (uhoh- here comes the Brooklyn pizza snob- the pizza wasn't bad, but couldn't hold a candle to the giant, crackly, chewy, sweet and salty deliciousness that is Brooklyn-pizza), and some tasty homemade ice cream, and then headed into the beautiful Clayton Opera House to grab seats for the pageant!

The show was a lot of fun- very well thought out and fast paced! I was joined by some of my 2009 pageant sisters- how nice to be reunited with them! All eight contestants were just lovely, and I was particularly impressed with each lady's onstage question answer. This is usually one of the toughest phases of competition, because there's really very little you can do to prepare for a random question, but each young lady demonstrated eloquence, awareness and intelligence! Nice! Congratulations to Amy Valenti, who won the Community Service and Children's Miracle Network Awards; to my awesome sister, Kieren Sheridan, who won both the Talent Award and Miss Congeniality; and to the court- 3rd RU Elizabeth Quencer, 2nd RU Stacey Minchin, 1st RU Corri Dartnell and Miss Thousand Islands 2010 Kristina Ferris!

Also- be sure to check out Brooklyn Independent Television's coverage of the Wafels & Dinges truck! Wafels and Dinges is a sponsor of the Miss Brooklyn Organization, and Brooklyn Independent Television just so happened to be featuring them on the day we held a fundraiser for my state expenses! I'm interviewed about food (of course), and get to chat a little with the host on why the Brooklyn food scene is so great, and what makes Wafels and Dinges a perfect match for Park Slope (appx 2:30 into the video)! Check out the video here. (Click on the link, and then on the video menu on the right, select the 2nd video- "Wafels and Dinges"). And yes, the cute guy in the hat and yellow t-shirt serving wafels is the Baron of Brooklyn (my boyfriend, Joe)!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Miss Long Island USA 2009

Claire, Marina and I after the pageant.

This past Sunday, I hopped on the LIRR with Claire to watch our very own Marina compete in Miss Long Island USA 2009! How exciting! I had never seen a USA pageant aside from Miss USA on television, so it was really fun to experience another aspect of pageantry! Marina was AMAZING (1st runner up in her 1st USA pageant!), and I sincerely hope that she goes to the state pageant in November, because I'll be there watching!

Congratulations to Jamie, Miss LI 2009! And a fun side note: the director of Miss LI USA was one of my judges at Miss Brooklyn!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Guest Ringmaster at the Coney Island Boom-A-Ring Circus!

With another excited circus goer!

Visiting with some of the stars of the show!

Introducing myself, and talking a bit about being Miss Brooklyn!

With Jason, feeling under-rhinestoned for the first time in my reign! The circus costumes were incredibly sparkly!

With my girl, Melanie, after the show!

Ellen and I "assuming the position" (we've realized we have WAY too many pictures in this pose). For those of you who don't know, Ellen is Miss Brooklyn's trainer/ surrogate mom/ booking manager!

Melanie and I with some of the talented (and very cute) Negrey Troupe!

What a night! After a slightly hectic delayed start (I got stuck on the train, and my ED Kim accidentally went to Staten Island!), I was greeted by members of the PR and Production teams of the circus, and give a backstage tour! I was able to meet some of the animals (see above), including their three beautiful Asian elephants! It was amazing to touch their gravely skin, and feel their trunks! The Ringling Bros are doing some amazing work through their Center for Elephant Conservation.

I was then escorted backstage at the big top, where I got to meet some of the performers, all of whom were very kind and welcoming! As the show started, I introduced myself and was able to talk a bit about the Miss America Organization, and the work I've done with my platform. I was then escorted to the audience, given fantastic seats with the rest of the Miss Brooklyn entourage, and got to enjoy the show!

All of the acts were incredibly impressive! There was a Wheel of Steel, Motorcycle Globe, balancing acts, clowns, an incredibly talented bicyclist, a nerve-wracking crossbow act, some amazing acrobats, jugglers, and of course, elephants and tigers!

Below is a video of an adorable daschund act. I watched in awe and amazement, and laughed to myself imagining my mother training our two (far less disciplined) daschunds to do similar tricks.

I was quite excited when I heard that the circus would be coming to Coney Island. I live only a couple of miles down the shore in Manhattan Beach, and I truly love this part of Brooklyn. It's been a rocky past couple of years for Coney Island, but additions like the circus are helping to revive the old magic that some thought this family-fun destination had lost. The Boom-A-Ring will be at Coney Island for the rest of the summer! Shows are Wednesday-Sunday, with a final performance on Labor Day (9/7). Haven't been yet? GO! Already been? GO AGAIN! Being the Guest Ringmaster at the Coney Island Boom-A-Ring Circus was quite possibly my favorite appearance of the year, not only because it was fun, but because EVERYONE I encountered was incredibly kind and enthusiastic! Thank you for a wonderful evening!