In less than a week, one of my favorite teaching artist programs in New York City, The Community Word Project, will turn ten years old. And so will I. Well, sort of. I started teaching with them almost 9 years ago when I was in graduate school and it was my first foray into the world of both second graders, teaching, and the Bronx. It was also my first year in New York, so as you can imagine, my whole world was on overload. I remember my first day, I could barely breathe and I thought, “How is it possible that students, tiny, beautiful, little students, could make me so nervous.” But they did and I was and it was hard. But it got easier, and eventually, it got addicting. I still miss it, although occasionally I still feel like I work with, ahem, second graders. Now, CWP is a whole ten years old. They’d be in fourth grade! They’d be rocking the elementary school with their new kicks and poems about big kids stuff. So, hats off to The Community Word Project and to the amazing work they do. I’m including a bit of information about their work and their benefit next week.

I also wanted to add, that there are a lot of teaching artists programs, but one of the wonderful things that CWP offers is that they teach you to teach. They don’t just plop you in a classroom and say, “Well, you’re a poet, talk about poetry.” They gave us the tools on how to get a room of rambunctious eight year olds all sitting at their desks and quiet, before we began a lesson. (Okay, yes, I still use these tools in the office.) Then they gave us the tools on how to organize our lessons and really teach a class that would stick with them forever. Now, the poetry these kids would come up with. I could tear up just thinking about it. It was truly inspirational, we used anaphora, we wrote poems together as a group, we performed them with our little limbs and strong voices and in the end we made a mural. And they are still going strong. So, hats off. Happy big kid birthday. Double digits to The Community Word Project. Wow. I think that calls for a poem. Here’s one:
I believe the sky cries because of what it sees in us.
I believe complexities come to an end.
I believe change is necessary to exist.
I believe struggles don’t last forever.
It’s never too late to reveal yourself to the world.
I believe I can.
Excerpted from
9th Grade Bronx High School of Writing & Communication
& 7th Grade PS/MS 279 Community~Poems, Bronx, NY, 2007
CWP was founded to:
empower students to develop reading, writing, public speaking, and community-building skills through collaborative arts residencies offer Teaching Artists' training with the only comprehensive 25-week Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program (TATIP) of its kind in the country provide professional development workshops for public school teachers, after-school leaders, and youth workers to help them to integrate creativity and community-building exercises into classroom and after-school curricula and programs.
The dedication and ability of CWP teaching artists helps transform the lives of the students we work with. To ensure that our teaching artists are well-trained and capable, all of our artists participate in CWP’s 25-week Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program (TATIP), which includes 30 seminar hours and a 20-week internship. TATIP prepares new and beginning teaching artists in all fields—writing, visual arts, theater, music, and dance—to play an active role in communities that are in dire need of positive creative energy.
We believe strongly that positive change happens best when people come together. Community~Word Project is the only arts-in-education organization in New York City that maintains a dual focus on both individual and collaborative creative writing and art-making.
CWP has served more than 8,000 public school students and more than 3,000 public school teachers, future teachers, and teaching artists through our collaborative arts residencies and professional development training.
The Community~Word Project
In Collaboration With louderARTS Project
My Voice is Music Wide as the Sun
May 19th , 2008
Bar 13 35 East 13th Street @ University Place, 2nd Floor
$6 ($5 for students)
2 for 1 drinks all night
A 10th Anniversary Benefit Reading & Mural Showing
Aracelis Girmay
Ellen Hagan
Matthea Harvey
Lynne Procope
Jason Schneiderman
Patricia Smith
Renee Watson
Fish as MC
Come join us as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary of training and bringing artists into NYC public schools for year long multi-disciplinary residencies. All proceeds will benefit The Community~Word Project

Originally Published: May 13th, 2008

Ada Limón is the author of Lucky Wreck (2006), This Big Fake World (2006), Sharks in the Rivers (2010), and Bright Dead Things (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. She earned an MFA from New York University, and is the recipient of...

  1. May 13, 2008
     Emily Warn

    Happy Tenth Birthday to you, Ada, and to the Community Word Project!
    I'm curious--do they recommend specific poets to teach? And if so, which ones?
    The New York Writers Coalition, an organization that "conducts free creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth, adult residents of supportive housing, seniors and other unheard members of society" is having a fundraiser this weekend--only this one's online:
    Ex-Harrieteer Patricia Smith will be writing for eight hours straight to help pitch in.
    Best, Emily

  2. May 14, 2008

    Hi Emily,
    Thank you for your congratulations! We are familiar with your work and Patricia has shared her excitement about your upcoming event.
    In answer to your question, we invite writers to work with us after they have successfully completed our 25-week teaching artist training and internship program that Ada mentioned in her post. Once hired these writers are paid to work in our residency classrooms. In addition, our teaching artist writers lead their students through author studies and when we have the opportunity we bring these authors into our classrooms as guest poets.
    I hope you can join us on May 19th and help us celebrate!
    -Michele Kotler, Director, Community~Word Project