Meet a DreamYard Scholar

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Meet Michela. 

During her high school career, Michela engaged in a number of DreamYard activities and classes including the Bronx Art Collective for four years and the Bronx Acting Ensemble. She also took advantage of additional supports offered at the DreamYard Art Center such as our SAT Prep class (four practice exams offered throughout the year) and participated in the Public Theater's Public Works program. Michela's participation in the Public Works program exposed her to the study of Shakespearean sonnets with professional instructors from the Public Theater culminating in a production of The Tempest at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

As a first generation college student, Michela's parents were supportive of her ambition to attend university but apprehensive of their ability to cover the full cost of a four-year degree.

With no one in her family familiar with the college application process, Michela turned to DreamYard for support. "I will always remember the incredible support I received from DreamYard and how they helped me, a first generation college student, be able to attend college and do incredibly well."

Working with DreamYard’s college advisor throughout the application process, Michela received one-on-one counseling and was supported along the way: filling out paperwork, managing timelines, etc. in addition to being made aware of scholarship opportunities through DreamYard.

Michela was accepted to the College of Saint Rose and is currently in her second year. To help cover the cost of tuition, Michela applied for a scholarship through DreamYard, which she won. The scholarship award ($30,000) has significantly reduced her family’s financial burden. The scholarship also allowed Michela to accept a unpaid internship at Albany Center Gallery; here she had opportunities to meet with professional artists who have supported her career path by serving as mentors offering advice, ideas, and encouragement as she progresses towards a professional career in the arts. Her work at the gallery also allowed her to take what she was learning in the classroom and apply it to a real job situation, often observing gallery professionals curate current exhibitions. The DreamYard scholarship has also inspired Michela to give back to the community. She now regularly collaborates with local churches to help refugee children, immigrant families like her own and create public arts to beautify her city through mural projects inspired by and similar to the ones she worked on with DreamYard.

“It is truly important to me to give back to those who are less fortunate or who have had similar circumstances like my own. Because the people at DreamYard believed in me; I am now on my way to achieving my goals."

Since starting college, Michela has returned to the Bronx and accepted a summer internship at DreamYard as a Mural Manager and Assistant Teacher with the Bronx Art Collective Summer Intensive. The summer internship at DreamYard provided teaching and managerial skills – giving Michela the confidence to manage a group of students with insightfulness, efficiency, and respect. Michela also had the opportunity to study at Korea University for a semester. And this year, after transferring to a college closer to home, Michela is back interning at the DreamYard Art Center as part of our Development Department.

Digi Notes - September/October 2017

Digi Notes - September/October 2017

Digi Notes is a monthly digital learning newsletter put together by our Director of Digital Learning, Hillary Kolos. Each Digi Notes offers examples of digital learning-focused program examples, articles, and resources.

IRL (in real life) Examples

Greetings from East LA - Educator Innovator

Students from the East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy, along with Public Matters and Dept. of Places, recently used a mix of writing, photography, and design to explore their neighborhood and re-write the (often negative) narrative of East LA: 

The students riffed off of traditional Hollywood star maps that guide tourists to famous people’s homes. The educators challenged the ELARA seniors to come up with their own East L.A. “celebrities” and landmarks, then research, interview, and write profiles of these people and places of value.

At first, students claimed there was nothing special about their area. But as they thought harder about the local heroes who influenced their lives and neighborhood, “their sense of pride started to swell,” Blockstein said.

Here's the article from Educator Innovator and there's also more info here

What would you include on a map of the South Bronx to celebrate its long history of creation, culture, and community? 

Digi Notes - Summer 2017

Digi Notes is a monthly digital learning newsletter put together by our Director of Digital Learning, Hillary Kolos. Each Digi Notes offers examples of digital learning-focused program examples, articles, and resources.

IRL (in real life) Examples

DreamYard Spotlight: Maker Institute

Maker Institute participants creating expressive, light-up nametags on the first day.

Maker Institute participants creating expressive, light-up nametags on the first day.

DreamYard hosted its second annual Maker Institute in April. Maker Institute is a three-day training for educators to learn about and practice the integration of art and social justice into maker programs. The cohort this year was a dynamic and diverse group of educators, artists, and technologists from across NYC (and Philly!). We had amazing guest artists, including Salome Asega - an innovative artist and research based in Brooklyn -  and By the Flamingos - a 3D design and printing company. To learn more, check out this article about Maker Institute on the Educator Innovator website.

DreamYard Spotlight: Allied Media Conference, Detroit, MI

Chelsea, Denisse, Joselina, Hillary and our new friend Willow at The Motown Museum!

Chelsea, Denisse, Joselina, Hillary and our new friend Willow at The Motown Museum!

A DY contingent was able to attend the always eye-opening Allied Media Conference a few weeks ago. We participated in sessions on a range of topics including data security, hip-hop for healing, pop-up radio, and anti-oppressive facilitation techniques. The plenary sessions were also an inspiration including talks by Malkia Cyril from the Center for Media Justice and Alicia Garza of the Movement for Black Lives. If you have a couple minutes - check out the program to see what folks were talking about at the intersection of art, technology and activism! Also feel free to ask Chelsea, Denisse, Hillary or Joselina about their experience.

How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech to Save Their Dying Languages - Broadly

mage from the First Nations Tech Council Instagram page. Follow them @fn_techcouncil

mage from the First Nations Tech Council Instagram page. Follow them @fn_techcouncil

Lydia Prince, a young indigenous woman from Vancouver is using technology to revitalize the use of indigenous language in her community. This article explains how technology has often been seen as a tool of oppression by indigenous communities in Canada. With the leadership of the First Nations Technology Council though, these communities are finding ways to use technology under their own terms to teach each other, preserve their culture, and connect to needed resources.

Using Baltimore’s dirt bike culture to get kids interested in engineering - The Renewal Project

Photo from The Renewal Project website of 5th grader Daron who wants to use his knowledge of dirt-biking to become an engineer.

Photo from The Renewal Project website of 5th grader Daron who wants to use his knowledge of dirt-biking to become an engineer.

A chemical engineer from Baltimore, named Brittany Young, has created a program for young people that teaches STEM through a passion for dirt-biking. Inspired to "meet people at their point of interest," Young saw the connection between engineering and the popular local hobby of maintaining and riding dirt bikes. She also noticed rising interest in a police crackdown to "solve" the problem of dirt-biking and knowing that would mean more young black men interacting with the police, she decided to come at it from a different angle. Check out this article from Young herself to learn more about her program called B-360.

Balti Gurls use social media to connect queer & POC artists - Red Bull Amaphiko

Balti Gurls

Have you heard of Balti Gurls?? They are an all-women of color arts collective based in Baltimore who are using social media in new and innovative ways to share knowledge, invites, and calls for work. Learn more here about their work and how they are building community both online and in-person.

Good Stories

The Antidote to Authoritarianism - Malkia Cyril, The Atlantic*

Malkia Cyril of The Center for Media Justice

Malkia Cyril of The Center for Media Justice

In this article in the Atlantic, Cyril connects the dots between surveillance techniques used during slavery in the Americas to how they are used today to "catch and control black dissidence." In particular, she discusses the need for an open internet so that we can "watch back" - and how that freedom is under attack right now by the Trump administration and FCC. 

*Bonus track: Can't get enough of Malkia's brilliance? Me either! Check out this talk - called "Will You Harbor Me? To Fight Police Violence, Demand Digital Sanctuary" - Malkia recently gave at the Personal Democracy Forum. 

Coding for What? - Ben Williamson, DML Central

Most coding programs focus on teaching the technical skills of different programming languages. Some teach more theoretical concepts like logic or computational thinking - but what about learning the social consequences of coding? How do we teach how fake news is perpetuated by algorithms or how to have a respectful conversation with someone online? Aren't these skills just as important?

"The reality, though, is that coding in the curriculum, and many other learning to code schemes, have tended to overemphasize either economically valuable skills for the software engineering sector, or high-status academic computer science knowledge and skills. There has been far too little focus on enabling young people to appreciate the social consequences of code and algorithms."

Read more in this article that explores the balance of technical and social aspects of coding.

Dr. Christopher Emdin's SXSWedu Keynote

Dr. Christopher Emdin

Dr. Christopher Emdin, the Columbia professor and author of the new book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Ya'll Too, gave a provocative keynote at this year's SXSWedu in March. This conference is the education innovation extension of the SXSW music, film, and interactive festival. It's known for being a gathering place for educators and ed-tech folks who want to find out about the latest new tools and digital learning practices. Dr. Emdin flipped the script this year though and asked the audience to think about pedagogy before technology and to focus on the deeper equity issues we must address before seeking technological solutions.

Check out his talk here.

Five Questions around Technology and Stories for Social Change - Thenmozi Soundararajan, Eyebeam

Equality Labs

Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a transmedia storyteller and technologist and director of Equality Labs "the first South Asian women/gender non-conforming/trans technology startup." In this interview with Eyebeam, Soundararajan talks about the power of storytelling in activism and the importance of digital security for artists and activists. Soundararajan also talks about the fight against the caste system in India for the liberation of the Dalit people, who have traditionally been placed in the lowest caste. Storytelling and social media are two of the tools being used to organize and raise awareness about the Dalit people across the world. 


How Hip-Hop Producer Steve Lacy Makes Hits With … His Phone - Wired

Steve Lacy

Musician and producer, Steve Lacy, is 18 years-old and already has a Grammy-nominated album. You may know him from being a part of the band The Internet or being featured on Kendrick Lamar's song "PRIDE." It was a surprise to me to learn he makes most of his music using GarageBand on his iPhone! Lacy plugs his guitar into the phone using an adapter and sings directly into the built-in iPhone mic even though he now has access to fancy studio equipment. Check out this video from Wired to see how he does it. It might be a good video to share with your young people to debate which is more important: technology or creativity and dedication?

Learning Music from Ableton - New Free Online Tutorials

Ableton Tutorial

If your participants are ready to take it to the next level of beat-making or music production, try out the new tutorial site from Ableton, a popular software used by professional producers and DJs. While it is helpful to have the Ableton software loaded on a computer, anyone can learn basic music production skills from this free web-based tutorial including lessons on chords, melodies, and song structure. 

Above the Noise - PBS

Above the Noise PBS

PBS launched a new web series for young people (but really we can all watch it) that "empowers teens with the facts behind real-world issues that affect their lives." The videos are short and well-made and might make a good conversation starter in your class one day. Check out their channel on YouTube

Things to play with! 

And here's some new stuff that came across my radar that looks fun to play with:

Brixo Blocks

Brixo Block Lighting Up

OMG someone is making Legos that light up! They aren't in stores yet but you can order them through an IndieGoGo campaign. The blocks conduct electricity so you can build creations that sense sound or motion, move, and light up. So exciting!!!!

Game Design with Piskel and Stencyl

Piskel-designed character from user Hifeod on

Piskel-designed character from user Hifeod on

An email list I'm on recently sent around some information about simple ways to make video games. They suggested using an app called Piskel to create pixel-based characters (called "sprites"). Then you can put those characters in a game using a free game-design program called Stencyl. Who wants to make a game this summer???? 

Alumni Highlights: Jeremy A.

I started with DreamYard when I was in 5th or 6th grade when they came to my elementary school, P.S/M.S 95, in the Bronx and my journey began with Romeo and Juliet as the lead drummer for the music. I joined the Poetry Slam group in 8th grade and discovered that I had a lot more to offer than I ever thought. I wasn’t the greatest student when I was middle school, but when I heard that DreamYard was opening a high school I knew that was where I had to be.

Macy's Give Back Day in the Bronx

Macy's Give Back Day in the Bronx

Last week, DreamYard participated in Macy's Annual Give Back Day. For months we have worked with their team, DY Prep High School staff, the DOE and the principals at the Taft Educational Campus to create a wishlist of repairs and upgrades to the school that would be completed by both professional Macy's contractors and volunteers while students were off on their summer vacations. 

Traveling Near and Far

Our students were traveling near and far this summer, with Art Center students going on cultural trips to Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. 

Entering their third summer of DreamYard's ACTION Project, the Unity cohort decided to focus on the issue of gentrification as they moved to explore its impact on various communities across the country, specifically in the South Bronx. Participants spent the first half of the summer interviewing various community members and crafting a script that will come together to create a full "mock-umentory" this fall. They traveled to Washington, DC, a rapidly gentrifying area and our nation's capital, to partner with local organizations and interview the residents, students, and small businesses affected by the issue.

In August, several DreamYard Art Center participants embarked on a week long expedition to Puerto Rico. After a series of preparatory workshops, participants departed New York and went on to study the cultural, political, and historical wonders of this beautiful island. Participants were able to reconnect, debrief, and curate their own presentation, which will be shared with our DY and Morrisania community this Fall.