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Star of Brooklyn: Barbara Cassidy

BARBARA CASSIDY/FOUNDER OF RIDGE KIDSCOMMUNITY

INVOLVEMENT: In this era of science and technology, many students seem to be moving further away from honing their writing skills. Barbara Cassidy, a playwright with the New York Writers Coalition and teaching adjunct at several New York schools, has brought together students who are struggling to discover their inner writer and helps them find it.Cassidy is the creator of two groups, Ridge Kids which works out of the Brooklyn Public Library, and WriteON!, a program through which aspiring writers can openly share their work with their peers.It’s almost like an open mic for kids, Cassidy explains. They can read their plays, poems or stories to other writers their own age.The way Cassidy’s involvement in the community came about can be seen through her background as a teacher. Schools are more about teaching tests these days and are leaving kids not enjoying school, she said. Instead, young students need to be encouraged to be creative and imaginative. To solve this issue, Cassidy started Ridge Kids and WriteON!

MOTIVATION: Cassidy’s motivation for helping young writers find their voice stems from her own childhood. In the third grade, Cassidy wrote her first play. She was so proud that she wanted her class to perform it together. And as I told my teacher about my play,” Cassidy recalled, “she looked at my work and put it in her side drawer. It was never brought up again.Given that the moment had such a profound impact on young Cassidy’s life, you could only imagine why she wants all young writers to be heard. The biggest thing for these kids is to get encouragement,” Cassidy contends. “With that they have endless possibilities.

LOOKING AHEAD: Cassidy is still working hard at helping writers find their voice. She has started experimenting with a new technique of having her students speak into a voice recorder, allowing their words to come out naturally. They then sit down and write what was said and, as Cassidy puts it, are amazed that those ideas on paper were the ones in their heads.Cassidy continues to explore new ways to help aspiring writers. She has just started a new project, working with blind writers, which she hopes will be a great learning experience.

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