In the News: Pizza Poetry project adds new events to menu/The Advocate

The Advocate
December 28, 2016

If Pizza Poetry is the voice of the children, those kids are about to get louder.
Big Class, the New Orleans nonprofit that encourages kids to write, in part by attaching their poems to pizza boxes at restaurants across the city for one day each spring, is helping to develop a New Orleans Youth Poetry Festival and working with 826 National on initiatives to get more kids writing to get those works out to a much larger crowd.

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Volunteer of the Month: December 2016

Congrats to our December Volunteer of the Month, Fall Programming Intern Tawanda Cummings! Tawanda has been interning with Big Class every Monday and Wednesday this fall. She is the teaching assistant for the Big Class in Residence Program at Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies, where she assists with the 7/8 grade Newspaper class and the 3rd and 6th grade Bookmaking classes. She also helps out at the office, using her writing skills to craft communication and outreach for Big Class. Thanks for a great semester, Tawanda!

What first brought you to Big Class?
I heard about Big Class in 2012, when I was a senior in high school. I decided to finally try and get more involved this year. I just really liked that Big Class is doing writing workshops and programs for kids who usually don't have access to that sort of thing. 
What keeps you coming back?
I like seeing the progression of the organization, even though I come to the office once or twice a week, it's like every time I come in something new is happening. Also, the students that I come in contact with by volunteering on Mondays. I enjoy seeing their progression and interest in writing and brainstorming and creating something unique of their own that's an actual representation of their own experiences and way of life. 
What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?
My writing skills have come in handy for sure. I can write for a variety of different purposes, and I've used them to write newsletters, emails, worksheets, etc. Another skill that helps me is my organization skills. It always helps to be able to break tasks down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. 
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?
I've really had to try and ask more questions instead of being as timid as I usually am. It's been hard for me to come out of my shell, but at Big Class, I really have chances to throw aside any anxiousness and just put myself out there more. Instead of wasting time overthinking,  I just stop and believe in myself. The environment (welcoming staff, small office) at Big Class really helps me to get into mood that's comfortable enough for me to really do my thing. 
What are some great projects you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind one of them if you can. 
I think that A Dark and Stormy Night was a great project. I really got to see everything that goes into planning from the beginning, so I'm glad I could help. I'm particularly proud of my A Dark and Stormy Night newsletter series.
What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?
When I'm not interning, I have class and I work. But for fun, I have a list of restaurants I want to go and a list of places I want to visit in the city. I also write and I love concerts. 

Call for Volunteers: Dear President-Elect Workshops

In response to last week's election results Big Class is pushing into classrooms across the city to facilitate letter-writing workshops to help young people process and share their voice about the election and the issues surrounding it. All of the work will be collected in a chapbook published by Big Class.

We need volunteers to help with this effort. Over the next few weeks we'll be scheduling these workshops during school hours (9:00-4:00). We are still developing the schedule with teachers so if you're interested in working one-on-one or in small groups with students to help them write these pieces, and if you have availability within that window, email so we can add you to a list of potential volunteersYou'll receive additional details as we schedule these engagements.

Finally, we will also need Spanish-speaking volunteers. If that's you, let me know as well!

Thanks, everyone.

Volunteer of the Month: November 2016

Congrats to our November Volunteer of the Month, Mallory Falk! Mallory worked as a radio production mentor last year with Big Class's teen program, the Youth Advisory Council. In the program, teens from around New Orleans are mentored by professional writers and artists, and engage in a writing-based multi-disciplinary collaborative projectRead our Q&A with Mallory below:

What first brought you to Big Class?
Aubrey [Edwards, Big Class Teen Programs Coordinator] reached out and asked if I'd like to help teach radio. I immediately loved the sound of Big Class--a supportive, encouraging space where young people develop the skills to tell their own stories and explore their world.
What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?
Back when I was a student, I learned all the radio basics through fun, hands-on activities. I try to bring those great activities to Big Class. I also bring my experience as a reporter and producer, which helps immensely as we cover topics like pitching stories, collecting sound and conducting interviews.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?
Too little time! The workshops go by so fast.
What are some great projects you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind one of them if you can.
I mentored two brilliant, budding radio producers as they worked on a feature-length story about the New Orleans education system. They asked students all across the city how they chose their high school and if the school matched their expectations. This radio duo was so impressive and self-motivated - conducting tons of interviews outside of Big Class, mixing sound late into the night. I was blown away by their final product, which offered a moving look into how students navigate our city's unique school system.
What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?
Producing stories for WWNO, New Orleans Public Radio and spending as much time as possible near the bayou.

A Dark and Stormy Night: meet the cocktail judges!

It wouldn't be A Dark and Stormy Night without our ghost cocktail contest!

We've enlisted some of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans to brew up their spookiest beverages. 11 local bars will be vying for the attention (and tastebuds) of both the audience and a panel of five great judges in order to win awards from them both. Their cocktails are inspired by ghost stories, appropriate for the season and for the creative challenges Big Class students work through in our programs.

Get to know a little about our judges and see what they had to say about what makes a good cocktail below! 

T. Cole Newton is the proprietor of Twelve Mile Limit bar and cocktail consultant around New Orleans.

"A great cocktail is one that fits drinker. Great cocktails can be strong, weak, or even non-alcoholic; they can be sweet, tart, bitter, salty, or all of the above. Taste is subjective, and an individual's taste can change from moment to moment. Sometimes ice and water is the best mixed drink in the world. The art of making a great cocktail has everything to do with recognizing the mood, personality, and context of the person who is going to drink that cocktail."

Dr. Andre Perry is an education scholar, author and advisor to people working to improve education in both K-12 and postsecondary institutions.

"Balance and consistency are the theoretical pillars of a great drink. I prefer classic cocktails for this reason. A balanced and consistent classic cocktail never surprises the drinker. The liquors chosen should be the only things that differentiate one Manhattan from the next. As I listen to beautiful people wax poetic about the wonders of New Orleans, I don't want to think about what's different about my classic drink. Consequently, a perfectly made classic cocktail ensures that a drink never gets in the way of a conversation.    
I want my drink to be handsome without makeup. Meaning, adornments aren't going to make the drink taste any better. If anything, decorations are going to get in the way. Keep it simple. Additives better be required. For instance, one good sized cube or sphere of ice makes a drink looks sexy. Too much ice is an ugly disguise for a bad drink."

Aesha Rasheed is an education advocate and co-publisher of the New Orleans Parents Guide.

"A great cocktail has layers that unfold throughout the experience. My favorite cocktails are similar to my favorite fragrances and blend sweet powdery sensations with rich spicy undertones. My palate tends toward sweet over bitter so my desires drift toward cocktails that incorporate floral and citrus notes and unfold into a spicy finish. But desires are prismatic and as varied as we are so, most importantly, the perfect cocktail brings pleasure to the drinker and tickles their palate just right."

Maurice Ruffin is an award-winning writer.

"A great cocktail is balanced, first and foremost. Taste and the proportions of the elements are also really important. But like New Orleans at Halloween, a great cocktail is fun and maybe even a little surprising." 

Poppy Tooker is a cultural ambassador, cookbook author and host of Louisiana Eats!.

"A great cocktail to me is well balanced, using seasonal ingredients and inventive touches from the bartender.  For instance, I prefer dark liquor in the fall and winter cocktails and light liquor cocktails in the spring and summer.  Just like in a great recipe, a great cocktail often includes ingredients that provide nuanced touches - often undetectable to an unschooled palate.  You may know that you like how something tastes - but are unable to discern the various ingredients."

Excited? Join us this Thursday, October 20 at Felicity Church for our 2nd annual Dark and Stormy Night. Tickets can be found here. But hurry, prices will raise $20 at the door. Last one there gets haunted for all eternity! 


How does A Dark and Stormy Night support young writers?

Learn more about how Big Class's Halloween literary costume and cocktail party supports our city's young writers.

1. They gain crucial writing skills

Big Class programs are project-based, engaging students over an extended period of time with the goal of publishing a book. Our programs are challenging and fun, and always emphasize individuality and imagination.

Along the way, students gain essential writing skills that improves the experience of confidently sharing their work with a wider audience.

2. They get a chance to flex their creative muscles

Big Class programs encourage students to practice and hone their writing skills outside of academic contexts. 

We believe in cultivating a sense of possibility that allows for creativity, joy, humor, and weirdness.

3.  They learn about themselves in the process

Student voice is placed at the forefront of any Big Class program. 

We believe that powerful youth become powerful adults.

4.  They collaborate with other students in safe spaces

Big Class offers safe spaces for young people to come together, think creatively, and write. 

Last year, 90% of students reported that Big Class helped them improve their abilities to work well with others. 

When students feel supported, the creative and collaborative possibilities are endless.

5. They attain a sense of empowerment

All Big Class programs culminate in a finished product that students can hold in their own hands and feel proud of. 

We also throw a publishing party for students to share their wonderful work with their teachers, friends, and family. 

We believe providing young people with opportunities to publish and celebrate their work builds self-empowerment and paves a pathway to future success.

In addition to raising crucial funds that make our work possible, A Dark and Stormy Night is a a great reason to dress your spookiest, drink delicious cocktails, and bid on fantastic auction items. 

Join us for this spooky celebration of young writers, creativity, and all things literary:

🎃 A Dark and Stormy Night: Calling All Cool Ghouls 👻

Calling all cool ghouls: we've got the party for you.

Like cocktails? Ghost stories? Supporting the voices of New Orleans's young writers? Scroll on for even more reasons to join the fun at Big Class's literary Halloween costume and cocktail party, A Dark and Stormy Night

Tickets are on sale here. They're $20 more at the door, so get them while you can!


1. Cool ghouls support youth

Big Class is the only nonprofit in New Orleans that offers writing programs and publishing opportunities for youthall free of charge. 

We believe in creating space for New Orleans' under-resourced youth to express themselves through writing. Last year, Big Class worked with 1,244 students and released 37 publications.

If we meet our goals for A Dark and Stormy Night, we'll cover all of this year's book publishing costs!

2. Cool ghouls love cocktails

A Dark and Stormy Night centers around a ghost story cocktail contest, with some of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans brewing up spine-tinglingly tasty beverages for all of the ghouls in attendance.

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A great panel of judges will be looming over the competition, which features 11 bars. But don't fret, all party-goers will be able to weigh in on their favorites as well. 

3. Cool ghouls know growth is great

Big Class is gearing up for a fantastic year's end, with our Youth Writing Center opening in the 7th Ward in 2017. Cool ghouls know that supporting youth means supporting our future, and we're dying to open our Youth Writing Center and support as many young people as (in)humanly possible.

4. Cool ghouls bid on spooky auction items

Why so serious? Ghosts and ghouls alike love auctions!

Bid on award-winning authors Dave Eggers, R.L. Stine, and Walter Isaacson to call you up with a bone-chilling ghost story. We also have Saints tickets, hotel stays, hauntingly memorable nights out in New Orleans, and much more.

Even the undead know that the living need fun.

5. Cool ghouls love to eat

The food at A Dark and Stormy Night? Downright diabolical. Vendors include Debbie Does Doberge, Frady’s, Mona’s, The Munch Factory, Pizza Delicious, Press Street Station, and Vaucresson Sausage Co.


6. Cool ghouls wear costumes!

A Dark and Stormy Night is a costume party, so sprinkle on some corporeal dust and don your spookiest attire! 

A Dark and Stormy Night will also feature a pop-up shop by The New Orleans Haunting Supply Co. We'll have original haunting supplies devised by Big Class students and local artists. Our costumes (ghouls will still be invisible to humans, of course!) and supplies will make your endless days and nights of roaming the underworld a little bit easier.