Today was my last day working at Chapman in Civic Engagement after nearly 4 years. I learned so much during my time in the department, working with OC Watersheds, CE Student Orgs, and, most recently, with the Futuros Brillantes Mentoring program. Thank you to everyone I worked with - senior staff, peers, mentors, mentees, watershed ambassadors, etc - you made it a truly wonderful experience, which is the reason why I’m pursuing Student Affairs in grad school. I’ll miss everyone, but I’m sure I’ll stop by from time to time! Thanks and peace out 😁✌#chapmanu #civicengagement #werk (at Chapman University)

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SMART ALEC in Portland

I’ve been learning more about since watching some of their testimony alongside several homeless Portlanders before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. They’ve launched a civic empowerment program for homeless and low income community members, and are fundraising toward the opening of a community center for civic education and organizing activities.

I originally became aware of Smart Alec in Portland through a PSU classmate who sits on the organization’s Board. The organization seems to have hit the ground running in Portland and I appreciate their approach. I gained new insights from watching the testimony (link below). The aim here was to apply focus to the voices of those who will be affected by decision regarding shelter proposals currently before the County.  CEO Matthew Charles Cardinale notes in his comments that the homeless population in Portland has the potential to comprise a formidable organizing block; the organization’s website hopes a dedicated facility can facilitate organizing activities  “in a safe and secure environment.”

Bridget Bartolini

New York City.

I say I’m from NYC and most think two things:
1) glitz and glamour
2) crime and violence

Two cities - two extremes.
But that’s not what life is like
for the people who live, grow, love
this wonderful, complex and beautiful place.

My name is Bridget Bartolini.
I’m a third generation New Yorker.
My family has lived
in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens
through the years they saw neighborhoods shift
German/Jewish to Irish/Italian
I grew up hearing my grandparents tell
of people raising pigs in their apartments
and lit bonfires in the streets

1982 was the year I was born
and born I was into a rainbow
I grew up in South Richland Hill, Queens
“The boonies” some might say
But I loved it -
going to class every day
My friends were from all over
I never thought about the diversity
just always knew it was there
So much difference and so many experiences
co-existing in a beautiful place.

In high school I left Queens
having tested into a magnet school
Stuyvesant was completely different
to what I had known
10 stories high with elevators?
My old school didn’t have bunsen burners
I felt like my peers had been groomed for this
I hadn’t even known about this place until
a teacher recommended I try

I got in, but was labeled “remedial”
I wasn’t dumb
but I *was* behind
And this opened my eyes
for the first time
To the inequity in resources:
What neighborhood you are in
determines what you have access to
and in my neighborhood
“Making it” meant getting out
But did it have to?

As a graduate student
Hope Leichter came into my life
with her I studied stories -
How we learn from stories,
attain more nuanced understandings
of others from stories,
and how stories create a basis
for human empathy.
As a student I started Bronx Stories
my first effort with neighborhood storytelling
“Thank you for making the Bronx relevant
for something other than conflict and violence”
was the response.

These experiences (and people!) inspired
the storyteller in me to believe
in the transformative and connecting power
of the stories we ALL have to share

As an adult I discovered
“The Laundromat Project”
One project among many
which deeply influenced the
The me I want to be:

The Laundromat project
not only brought art into the lives of people
who aren’t able to frequent cultural centers
But also supported fellowships
That allowed me to develop my craft
and enforced my commitment
to the ideals of neighborliness
and work propelled by love

… which leads me to where I am now
Still a native New Yorker
who passionately loves her city
but also a socially engaged artist,
founder of the Five Boro Story Project
working to make New York - all of it
a better place to live.

LINDA’S COMMENTS: I was introduced to Bridget through our mutual friend Michelle (who has just begun her PhD in anthropology at Columbia). Knowing I am rabidly curious (alright, maybe not *rabidly* but close to it) about people with a serious passion and putting that passion into action, Michelle put me and Bridget into contact. The piece above is adapted from a phone conversation I had with Bridget, shortly after, during which I was simultaneously inspired, impressed… and renewed in my own efforts as a fledgling “socially engaged” artist. Bridget’s continuing journey with the Five Boro Storyt Project is one too follow. I’ll be keeping tabs for sure.

BRIDGET BIO: Bridget Bartolini is a native New Yorker who passionately loves her city and wants to make it a better place to live. As a socially engaged artist, her creative practice is grounded in storytelling and community education, and partially inspired by her frustration with the lack of cultural programming in areas like where she grew up in Queens. In 2011, while pursuing her Master’s Degree in in Community Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, she began producing public programs that pay homage to the people and places in New York that are often overlooked. In April 2013, Bridget launched the Five Boro Story Project to create community storytelling programs that bring New Yorkers together through personal stories and art inspired by their neighborhoods. These programs aim to strengthen community connections, preserve local history, and challenge stereotypes of marginalized neighborhoods in New York City. Since then she has produced storytelling and arts events throughout NYC’s five boroughs.

(*) The FBSP will be our next featured#thursdayproject! But for those curious now:
- Website:
- Facebook:
- Twitter:
- Instagram:
- YouTube:

- Hope Leichter:

- Shansi Fellowship:
- Masters in Community Education (Columbia):
- Bronx Stories (originally Bridget’s Thesis project and now run by the Bronx Museum):
- Laundromat project:

One Week Left to Apply!

There is only one week left to apply for our grant opportunity of up to $25,000! We are looking to fund existing organizations that work to involve youth in grades 6th - 12th in civic engagement and the related topics of youth organizing, leadership and advocacy. You can find our application HERE. The deadline for the application is August 3, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.

24 hours to go...

I’m required to blog once a week (although I thought it was supposed to be every day) but I had already promised my family and friends I’d blog every day, so here it is! My blog is titled “One a day, the South African way!” because a friend of mine, Mason, came up with it and I thought it was quite humorous and fitting. These next 5 weeks are going to be life-changing and I absolutely look forward to this experience.
Dad and I spent the day traveling to Atlanta, making sure my bags were packed, and just simply spending time together. Saying good bye to my mother earlier was tough because I know she’s going to be a mess while I’m gone. (Love you, Mom) :) I fly out tomorrow in the evening so please send up some prayers that everything will go smoothly.

So, you may ask, why exactly are you going to South Africa?

Well, I was an Air Force brat growing up and we lived all over the western part of the world. I’ve learned more about European countries and the US than I could ever dream of. I decided that when choosing my study abroad destination, why would I go somewhere I’ve already been? Why wouldn’t I choose to go somewhere that most people have only ever seen on the National Geographic channel? Of course with living in East Tennessee comes great controversy from family friends. “Why would you want to go to Africa?”, “You’re going to get eaten by a lion!”, or “Are you going to have to live in a grass hut?” were just a few of the statements/questions I received. No, I won’t get eaten by a lion. No, I’m not living in a grass hut. And my favorite question, “why would you want to go to Africa?” Well, through this study abroad program I signed up for, I get to work with a school for underprivileged children, an orphanage, and visit quite a few historical sites throughout Cape Town. HOW COOL IS THAT?? This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I feel extremely blessed to be participating in it.

Stay tuned!


TALKPGH begins this Saturday, April 6th, in Pittsburgh, PA.

What do you think about your neighborhood? TALKPGH is Pittsburgh’s first mobile talk show. In April 2013, a truck configured into a mobile talk show set, will drive to each of the city’s 90 neighborhoods to interview residents about their area. The purpose of TALKPGH is to collect Pittsburgh residents’ stories, opinions, and thoughts about their neighborhoods. These interviews will be compiled, available online, and played at special feature presentations throughout the city. This project is an outreach effort of the ARTPGH & DESIGNPGH components of PLANPGH, the City of Pittsburgh’s comprehensive plan for growth over the next 25 years.

You can read more about TALKPGH in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article

And: if you haven’t already heard of it, you’ve got to check out Conflict Kitchen, also devised by Pittsburgh-based artist Jon Rubin