Volunteer organization Kids Share Workshops will help Newtown children express themselves through the creation of a book.
Download the Kids Share Newtown Release.
NEWTOWN, CONN., FEB. 22, 2013: Kids Share Workshops, a volunteer arts enrichment program devoted to awakening the artist and author in every child, is coming to Newtown in April to help its youngest residents tell their stories.
From April 2–12, the organization will lead an after-school workshop at the Newtown Youth Academy in which local children ages 8 to 14, many of them from Sandy Hook Elementary School, will write personal narratives and paint pictures on several themes. The tenor of the workshop will be upbeat and positive, with professional art therapists, teachers and other volunteers gently guiding children to express what they love about Newtown. Their work will ultimately be published as a book.
“This gives the children of Newtown a chance to explain to the world who they are: ‘This is our town and why we love it,’” said Kristen Casey Marshall, a Kids Share volunteer whose three children attend Sandy Hook Elementary School. “We’re doing this so that the world doesn’t just see images of devastation when they hear our name—so they see the beauty of Newtown through the eyes of the children who live here.”
“We are taking the utmost care to be compassionate and thoughtful in every aspect of building this program,” said program director Kristina Applegate, who grew up in nearby Ridgefield, Conn., and founded Kids Share Workshops in 2007. “Our goal is to give the kids in Newtown a voice. We want to show Newtown as a vibrantly creative community, and ultimately to express its strength, foster hope for its future, and help to heal some hearts along the way.”
Among the team of 20 volunteers are several of Applegate’s former Ridgefield High School classmates, including Marshall, creative director Jennifer Ponte Canning, graphic designer Kris Shonk Pfeifer and curriculum writer Lauren Gordon Lee. The team came together after Applegate posted her desire to bring a workshop to Connecticut on Facebook, and received an overwhelming response.
“This is my sixth year of running Kids Share Workshops, and it is by far our largest team of professional volunteers and directors to date,” said Applegate, whose previous programs involved exchanges between students in Vermont and their counterparts in Central America and India. While passionate about using art to build cross-cultural bridges around the world, Applegate felt strongly that the KSW curriculum could make a positive impact in Newtown as well.
Others share that sentiment. Kids Share has received a warm welcome in Connecticut, notably from the Newtown Youth Academy, which is providing classroom space for the workshop. The non-profit sports and fitness facility has been a haven for area families since Dec. 14, offering escape through activities and events, including a recent visit from the Boston Bruins hockey team. A portion of any proceeds from the Kids Share Newtown book will benefit the NYA so it can continue to serve the community.
This is not Kids Share’s first foray into publishing. In 2010, the organization received the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) Bridge to Understanding Award for its volume of artwork and essays by children living in India and the U.S. The book was the result of a multipart workshop with children from the Tibetan SOS Children’s Village in Bylakuppe, India, and those attending Union Elementary School in Montpelier, Vt., and Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury, Vt. A copy of the book resides at the Library of Congress.
While previous KSW books were self-published with the help of donations, however, Kids Share Newtown is actively seeking a contract with a major publishing house to produce this particularly meaningful message to the world. Many Newtown families, moved by the overwhelming response to the events of Dec. 14, are grasping for ways to express their appreciation.
“How can we ever say thank you for this outpouring of support?” asked Kristen Casey Marshall, the Sandy Hook parent and KSW volunteer. “Now, I’ll be able to give someone a book that says it beautifully.”
KSW is seeking experienced illustrators to bring together children’s paper art in collage to be featured in the book. Those interested should send samples of their work to Kristina Applegate at firstname.lastname@example.org or via priority mail to 405 Haggett Road, Montpelier, VT 05602.
The Kids Share Newtown workshop will take place Tuesdays through Fridays, 4:30–6:30 p.m., from April 2–12 at Newtown Youth Academy, 4 Primrose Rd. in Newtown, Conn. (on the former Fairfield Hills campus). Workshop enrollment is limited to 30 children. At press time, 13 spots for Newtown residents aged 10 through 14 were still open. Online registration is available at http://www.kidssharenewtown.wordpress.com/workshop.
The mission of Kids Share Workshops is to inspire creativity and self-expression in children through arts enrichment; to foster understanding through cross-cultural activities; and to empower young people through education.
Kids Share Workshops, L3C (nonprofit/low-profit hybrid), is an arts enrichment program that recognizes each child as a vibrant and creative individual, and strives to awaken the author and artist inside each of them. KSW connects volunteers from professional backgrounds to youth from around the world through the co-creation of visual and literary art, with team-building principles and cross-cultural understanding at the heart of its curriculum.