2019 Retreat Week Day 5

I am so happy to be home, see my family and sleep in my own bed tonight, but this was a special group of girls and I will miss them very much. We had our showcase for family and friends today. I was consumed with finishing all the details and going into overdrive to help keep their energy up, so I did not take any pictures. Video footage will be uploaded soon for people to view.

After each program I run, I have to think about our mission. Am I living up to it? Am I achieving with my girls what I have set out to do? And for the first time – this year (not to say any year that’s gone before has not), but it’s been made very clear to me that SIO is living it’s mission. When you are in the early stages of creating an organization and you don’t know what you are doing, it can feel very confusing. But this year, a lot of things came together. From our partnership with New Settlement Program for Young Women and Girls, to doubling & tripling our numbers. This week was not without some tense moments between us, but we became a unit, a little 2019 SIO family. There’s something so magical and powerful about women coming together to create something special. And learning from one another. It’s unlike anything I ever experienced growing up and I feel so grateful to be able to do this each summer.

For the next month I’ll be reflecting on and digging deep to discover how we can grow and reach even more young women throughout the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Please stay tuned for updates on upcoming retreats, weekend programs and certainly information about next summer!

Thank you to Joy Leonard, Tamia, Karen, the families of New Settlement Program for Young Women and Girls. Thank you to Tim and Amanda at SUNY New Paltz Campus Auxiliary Services and Ken Goldstein the chair of the SUNY New Paltz Theater Department. Thank you to John, Olivia and Jack for being so supportive when I leave town to do this important work. And finally, thank you to my girls for their bravery, fierce outlook on life, humor, warmth and amazing creativity. Much Love, Noreen

2019 Retreat Week Day 4

I’m writing this post at 11:45 pm, so that should give a good sense of HOW busy we were today! I’m exhausted, so I’ll keep it short. The pictures tell the story of how awesome today was. This morning we arrived at the dance studio nice and early to work with choreographer, dancer and actress Hettie Barnhill ( https://www.hettiebarnhill.com/ ) . It was inspiring and fantastic.

Then, I had the girls take a LONG walk from campus into town. They were not so happy with me, because it was a bit hot. That said, the pictures tell it all. They were nervous at first, but kayaking was a blast and in the end they were begging me for more time on the water!

We ended our day with a BBQ at my dear friends Stephen and Kyle’s home. We made s’mores and even got spooked by Stephen! It was amazing. The pictures in today’s slide show tell it all. What a memorable and wonderful day with this 2019 SIO family of girls and young women! I will miss them SO much!

2019 Retreat Week Day 3

Today was AWESOME! Because tomorrow is so busy spending most of the day doing off campus activities, we did the bulk of our creative planning today. We spent the day in the paint shop, which was really fun! This group of girls is so talented and really rise to the occasion when asked to do something. I am so proud of them. I want to give a special shout out to my two staff members – Karen and Tamia who are just phenomenal. I could NOT do this without their help. From helping girls go find “lost” key cards to helping with set pieces and keeping the girls in check – they do it all! Karen took some beautiful pictures today of the prop the girls made for their piece. I am very, very grateful!

Summer 2019: “This is Me” Week 1

This year, Shake It Out had the pleasure and privilege to partner with New Settlement Program for Young Women and Girls. Under the direction of Joy Leonard, Shake It Out was able to secure space and 21 girls to participate in week 1 of our 2019 program.

Day 1 – July 15 Monday we spent most of our day getting to know one another and playing a ton of ice breakers and theater games. When reflecting on the importance of such activities they realized quickly that they needed to listen to one another, support one another, hear each other out, and compromise. We read, analyzed and discussed lyrics from the song “This Is Me” from the popular movie The Greatest Showman. That was a hit with many! Finally, we ended our day with a goal setting meditation with shaman healer Lauren Carter (and her cute baby)! Of course, I was wondering how the girls would respond to something so different, but I was pleasantly surprised at how attentive, invested, and willing they were to participate. It was definitely one of the highlights of our week! For more information on what Lauren does visit her website: https://www.saiwahealingarts.com/#about

Day 2 – July 16 Tuesday, we took a big field trip to Brooklyn to visit female entrepreneur and female empowerment photographer Nomi! We talked to her about her journey to be a female entrepreneur, her work, and what some of the challenges of being a woman in today’s society. Unfortunately, it was just TOO hot to travel to Prospect Park for lunch, but instead we found some shade at the PS9 playground, admired the murals, and ate lunch.

Our day in Brooklyn with Nomi and lunch in the shade of the playground.

Day 3 – July 17 Wednesday was a whirlwind of creativity and planning our performance piece. We started the day by doing a brief focus meditation. The girls then used their journals to write in response to the phrase “I AM…” Here they got to express themselves in whatever way they wanted to – they could write long form, make lists, write poems, draw pictures. Afterward, they opted to put those words on big chart paper. They were really beautiful. We transitioned to working on “open scenes” where girls partnered up with someone and had only about 5 lines each to convey who they were, what the problem was, and what they wanted in the scene. Finally, this dance and movement motivated crew broke into groups of 4 to choreograph a 30 second dance piece to a piece of music that they chose and reflected the themes of female empowerment. Needless to say, we were ALL exhausted at the end of the day!

Day 4 – 7/18 Thursday started off with a rainy commute to the city! Although we were soaked, the trip to New Victory Dance was WORTH it! The girls saw 4 different dance companies perform a variety of different dance styles. New Settlement was even chosen to go up on stage to participate in one of the dancers pieces! It was really fun and inspiring for the girls. When we returned all they asked was, “Are we going to have time to rehearse our dance???”

Our day in Times Square at New Victory Dance!

Day 5 – 7/19 Our final day was all about finalizing our performance piece. There were all sorts of feelings about that and the there were times I had to mediate and help them work through some of their feelings of frustration and miscommunication. I love this part of the work because it begins to teach kids that you can talk through problems by understanding where everyone is coming from. In the end, we had our love fest at the end and I think the girls were VERY proud of the work they did in week 1!

2019 Retreat Week: Day 1

July 22, 2019 Well, if anyone claimed last week they were “shy,” I saw NO evidence of that today for our first week of retreat! We began our day with an amazing panel of women artists, healers, doulas, health educators, and actors. It was quite inspirational!

After lunch, we introduced the girls to a few new improv games – “Freeze” and “Hussle” It was SO. FUN. I even learned something new and got to participate! Everyone participated, there was A LOT of energy and laughter. A good time was had by all!

2019 Retreat Week Day 2

Today we had a GREAT, but exhausting first day in New Paltz! We left NYC around 9:20 and had a smooth ride upstate. After making sure all our room assignments were in order, and our rooms were unpacked, we headed to the dining hall for our first lunch! After lunch, we took a visit across campus to the Student Union Building (SUB) so Noreen, Tamia, and Karen could get their official “staff” badges. Then, we met with the President of the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) and learned how students who need help academically and financially can achieve success at SUNY New Paltz and beyond.

Before dinner, the girls enjoyed some more time in the student lounge creating “found poems” then took a much needed break! We began working on “found poems” based on text from Michelle Obama’s book “BECOMING.” I’m thinking of sharing a picture of them on her instagram page! :) These poems allow girls to choose words and phrases from the text and then THEY get to decide how they want to put the words together poetically and artistically. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know them better and I’m really excited to see this piece all come together!