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!