Category Archives: Education and Literacy

Helping Under-Resourced Schools in NYC with Project Cicero’s Passion for Reading

The first time I purchased a book of my own I was 8 years old. My grandfather had given my brother and I $3 each as a holiday gift and my mom took us to the local Toys R Us Superstore and told us we could buy whatever we wanted with our money.

8 year old me with my brother…. and my two favorite books

Money of our own for the first time – we felt like millionaires! I spent .95 cents on “A Cricket in Times Square” and $1.75 on “A Wrinkle in Time.” 

The books were a little ahead of my reading ability, but I loved them anyway. I was so proud of them!

I carried them with me everywhere and read them over and over again as soon as I could. I still have them displayed proudly on my shelf today.

Books opened a world of imagination, curiosity, learning, and adventure I am still passionate about.

Project Cicero fuels that kind of love and passion in children across the 5 Boroughs of NYC through an annual, free for teachers, massive book distribution event.

Leading up to the event, Project Cicero collects new and gently used book donations and co-host book drives run by over 100+ New York City independent, public, and parochial schools.

They also accept larger book volume donations by local organizations and have an Amazon WishList for anyone looking to donate specific books.

The books are transported to a distribution site where hundreds of student, parent, and teacher volunteers unpack and sort the books, then get them ready for display. Tens of thousands of books are collected for the event.

NYC public school teachers register to attend. At the event, the books are laid out by category and/or reader age (board books, geography, foreign language, reference, STEM, young adult fiction, etc.).

Ready for the teachers!

Teachers can spend as much time as they’d like perusing the tables and racks, and they can take as many books as they can carry back to their classrooms and schools. All the books are free.

Over 2,000 teachers registered for this year’s event, most of whom come with rolling, large-sized luggage and other wheeled containers they can completely fill with books for their students.

Teachers come with lists in hand of subjects, book titles, and genres of books they’d like to have for their classrooms/school libraries. Some of the board members of Project Cicero, and many of the volunteers, are either current or prior educators and are available to help teachers make good choices for their students.

Project Cicero is a non-profit aimed at solving inequality of resources in New York City public schools. Their event is aimed primarily at providing books to teachers at Title 1 Schools. These are schools where at least 40% of their students come from low-income families.

There are over 1800 public schools across the 5 boroughs of NYC and over 1200 of them receive Title 1 funding (1)

We learned that teachers do not only bring books back for their classroom and school libraries. They also will select books to use as rewards and incentives since many children’s families cannot afford to buy books. And they often choose books to supplement curriculum or to provide new experiences for their students.

I volunteered one of the days leading up to the event and spent my shift sorting, unpacking and repacking books.

There were boxes of donations piled high and tables were already pre-filled with books for the upcoming event.

Project Cicero encourages groups of volunteers from companies and even groups of students to come volunteer together and make a difference.

In addition, students can help organize and work at their own schools’ book drives.

Since its inception in 2001, Project Cicero has distributed over 4,000,000 new and gently-used books to tens of thousands of New York City classrooms, reaching over 1,000,000 students!

Donated books not good for use in the event (because they are too worn/damaged, or are textbooks that are too outdated, etc.) are recycled.

After the event, any books remaining that were not chosen and are of good quality are donated to local organizations for their use and distribution. They try to bring in all new stock every year.

Project Cicero was one of 33 organizations included in the NYC Materials Exchange Development Program’s inaugural study and continues to be recognized as a major re-user/recycler in New York City.

In 2020 alone, Project Cicero reused 68,308 pounds of material — saving it from landfills.

The organization is named in honor of the Roman writer, statesman, orator, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, who created extensive libraries in the first century BC.

He shared his love of literature and learning, just like Project Cicero seeks to do. Cicero is credited with the quote, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Photo 242928770 / Cicero © Izanbar |

Project Cicero is helping improve reading skills and reading levels, introduce students to new subject matter, increase enjoyment of reading, and inspire the love of a good book…. their goal to ensure every student has access to books is inspirational!

What was your favorite book as a child? Let me know in the comments below!

Would you like to learn more about Project Cicero?

Check out their website at:

Want to participate in donating books to Title 1 schools in NYC? 

To purchase books from the wish list, visit

Interested in helping your child’s teacher or school set up an Amazon WishList of their own to share with the school families and community?  

I put together some simple directions you can download below.

THANK YOU for joining my journey! XO XO


(1) (2018, September 15). More Schools Eligible, Less Aid Available. New York City Independent Budget Office. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

The Powerful Possibilities of Community

Volunteering at the Actors Theatre Workshop in NYC

Human beings are storytellers. We use language, behavior, and actions to tell stories about who we are, what we believe, and what it means to be human. Live theater taps into the human need for storytelling in a way that provides experience in community. It nourishes collective imagination and inspiration. The actors and the audience create and experience a special reality together during the performance.

For Thurman E Scott the theater is both a place and a philosophy. His extensive experience on stage and in film as actor, producer, and director, awakened an indefatigable drive to develop new, unique, creative approaches to artistic theater which moved beyond a temporary shared experience and into an active, meaningful role within the community at large. His goal – – to open up creative problem-solving and drive positive change in communities.

He started working with incarcerated prisoners in several NY State prisons, developing and teaching creative expression techniques. What he found was flourishing imagination and new perspectives for possibility opening amongst the participants. New ways of expression and conflict resolution.

In order to expand on that experience, he founded the Actor’s Theatre Workshop in NYC, a non-profit organization where he has developed new, original techniques for students to write and perform their own work, focusing the creative process and the principles of drama towards dialog, expression, and conflict resolution of key personal and community challenges.

The programs provide individuals the tools to fulfill their potential through studying his original theatre and education techniques, then utilize that potential to imagine and bring to life changes within themselves and the community.

One of the programs includes Builders of the New World – an award-winning program created especially for homeless children dealing with the tremendous instability of living in temporary housing facilities. Over 29,000 homeless children currently live in New York City. Each are dealing with the critical issues of instability, transience, and lack of basic services and needs. The program is free for the children.

They learn to create original theater with new material and during that process they learn coping mechanisms as well as techniques with which to develop creative action. It teaches them to express themselves in meaningful ways, improves their reading, writing, and presentation skills, and promotes participation in the Democratic process of debate and dialog, leading to measurable personal, academic and professional success. It also builds hope by teaching them to push into their imagination and write about their visions for the future, then consider how to bring them to life. It’s a multi-class program and students are fed a hearty meal with each session.

Another of the Theatre’s programs, developed by Thurman Scott, is Life Stories for Veterans – a writing and performance program for veterans of the US military which gives them the opportunity to tell their stories through the creative, dramatic process, and share them with members of the community. In evening and weekend classes, veterans of all ages study the Theatre’s original writing technique and then write stories about the power of their unique experiences and journey. As the participants share their work in final performance, the audience gains important insights and the veterans experience their place in society being upheld and supported.

I was at the Theatre early in January as part of a team of volunteers cleaning up and packing away all the end of year holiday decorations and props and getting the facility ready for the new year’s activities.

We were greeted by the volunteer staff who gave us a tour of the facility and shared lots of information about the Theatre and the unique processes. We also watched a video sharing many scenes of various events, activities, and workshops.

Walking around the facility, it was easy to be inspired through the student-created stories and art, as well as the various props, awards, and artwork. It was an inspiring creative space.

The Theatre also holds acting courses and creative expression exploration workshops for various levels. A sign declares, “The first steps to do anything in life are to liberate the limitless possibilities that exist in every human being.”

The workshops are designed to challenge participants to move into imagination and become open to new perspectives. With training, the participant’s intuition and imagination start working together, creating a focus on possibility (not limited by pre-existing bias or belief). Liberating potential and opening up possibility. People can then respond to challenges and issues imaginatively, emotionally, and inspirationally. They are no longer locked in the confines of the factual intellect, but instead have the full range of creative intellect, with new insights.

The Theatre often works with business groups as well. They recognize members of the business community are often paralyzed or held into existing situations thinking they must maintain the structure that currently exists – one which upholds the collective status quo. This is because there is fear of change and an inability to see viable new possibilities. It is often not a natural part of business day to day to look for, probe, and try new expressions. The Theatre programs help to unlock that thinking and explore new possibilities in a safe, communal environment that can then translate out into real-world change.

The organization has an extensive volunteer program – from helping at events and courses/programs to marketing, design, video editing, carpentry, lighting, etc. If you have any passions or interests around theatre, theatre production, teaching expression, etc. – – there is a volunteer opportunity available!

The Theatre also holds monthly open mic nights, often with topics related to current events. Live theater is a perfect place to share conflicting viewpoints because they are expressed between characters on a stage and the audience does not feel threatened by it. Yet this type of open dialog often inspires creative thinking and new perspectives. It allows empathy, understanding, and truth to emerge.

Thurman E Scott believes theater should belong to everyone. That it must test, probe, and struggle to find new expressions, new forms and new ideas that will inspire and uplift the consciousness of our society. Theater can be aspiration-focused. A way of being together that nourishes in each individual the resilience, the hope, the joy, the courage, the focus, and the determination that we each need in order to create the world in which we want to live – both on stage and off. I left the volunteer shift motivated and inspired by the possibilities the Theatre opens to the community!

To read more about the Actors Theatre Workshop and their award-winning program, to donate to support their vision, or to learn about volunteer activities, please visit: Home – The Actors Theatre Workshop

Thank you for joining me on my journey this week!


Week 32: DoSomething.Org – Empowering Youth and Young Adults to Get Involved and Get Active (because apathy sucks!) is the future of volunteer and activism experiences. The non-profit uses a digital platform to power offline action through hundreds of grass-roots volunteer, social change, awareness and civic action campaigns.



Words on flower

Targeted at ages 13 – 30, the campaigns can be completed by individuals or groups, without any need for transportation, funding by participants, or oversight. Young adults love to get involved and make a difference. They are passionate about causes they identify with. taps into that potential and makes getting active super easy and super fun, empowering teens and young adults to drive social change.

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Week 29: Team Walker’s Holiday Christmas Party

Map of JC

Just across the Hudson River from NYC’s wealthy Tribeca area, the waterfront neighborhoods of Jersey City boast recently constructed high-rise office buildings and luxury apartments where one bedroom, one bath, 750 sq. ft. condos sell for over $800,000. Trendy restaurants, expensive gyms and swanky shops welcome new, mostly young, Jersey City residents, attracted to the beautiful skyline and proximity of NYC. But just a short drive a few blocks west and south, crossing under the NJ Turnpike /Rt. 78 Ext, which slices Jersey City in half, and another, much older Jersey City emerges. Here, the landscape is spattered with pre-foreclosures and foreclosures. Here, a 3 bedroom, one bath home over 1,500 sq.ft.  can be secured for under $300,000. Here, median income drops from upwards of $80,000 to $35,000. Here you can find neighborhoods with poverty levels beyond 30% and unemployment levels upwards of 40%. This is a place where gunfire and violence are everyday realities. Team Walker exists here, in this shadowland, among these disadvantaged communities.

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Week 16: A Week in West Virginia with the Southern Appalachian Labor School

IMG_0646A rusted out car and two rusted pickup trucks sit like silent sentries on the field in front of Mr. Gray’s house. The house is old and in extensive disrepair – no heat or hot water, a hole in the kitchen floor that opens to the basement, a hole in the wall that opens to the outdoors. I am in Fayette County, West Virginia for a week, as part of a team of volunteers working with SALS (Southern Appalachian Labor School).

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