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Thank you for your interest in Simply Smiles! We invite you to explore our projects in Oaxaca, Mexico and on the Cheyenne River Reservation, as well as volunteer opportunities in these locations.

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18 Reynolds St.
East Norwalk, CT
USA

Dedicated to building bright futures for impoverished children, their families, and their communities.

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CT Writing Project 2017

connecticut Writing Project 2017

Five exceptional young women - Sunni, Juanita, Erika, Ashantii, and Autumn - from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, along with their literature teacher, Mrs. Kelly Bessette, spent two weeks this summer in Connecticut. They were the winners of an essay contest hosted by Simply Smiles and the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, an affiliate of the National Writing Project. The two-week program at Fairfield was called "Project Citizen" and taught participating high school students how to find their voice and write their lives through different forms of advocacy writing.

Check out some of the highlights below of the students' experience in the program, especially their insightful poetry from their workshop, plus other moments from their trip to the East Coast - including a trip to New York City, the beaches of the Connecticut shoreline, travel by trains, planes, subway... and lots of swimming!

(Scroll over or tap the images to read captions)

The intrepid travelers, accompanied by Senior Program Manager Zach Gross, board their flight from Rapid City to the East Coast to begin their two-week excursion.

The intrepid travelers, accompanied by Senior Program Manager Zach Gross, board their flight from Rapid City to the East Coast to begin their two-week excursion.

Before embarking on the trip, the Simply Smiles team took the winning essay contestants on a shopping trip to purchase luggage and other supplies to prepare them for their East Coast visit!

Before embarking on the trip, the Simply Smiles team took the winning essay contestants on a shopping trip to purchase luggage and other supplies to prepare them for their East Coast visit!

Headed to Connecticut - and the first time flying for the students!

Headed to Connecticut - and the first time flying for the students!

A visit to Fairfield & getting started

A visit to the Fairfield University campus and a stop by the school's mascot, The Stag.

A visit to the Fairfield University campus and a stop by the school's mascot, The Stag.

The students participated in a two-week writing immersion program through the Connecting Writing Project-Fairfield, held at Fairfield University.

The students participated in a two-week writing immersion program through the Connecting Writing Project-Fairfield, held at Fairfield University.

 

Proud to be me / Lakota / Native American, not Hawaiian or Alaskan / But Sioux, I do me…you do you. / American Indian, First Nation / Indigenous, indigenous no matter where I go…

- an excerpt from Erika's poem, Running With My Nature

A group activity at the Writing Project at Fairfield University and a chance to meet other student participants.

A group activity at the Writing Project at Fairfield University and a chance to meet other student participants.

The girls stand in Bellarmine Lawn, where graduation ceremonies take place. In its partnership with Fairfield University, Simply Smiles is able to offer scholarships to students on the Reservation to attend the Connecticut university.

The girls stand in Bellarmine Lawn, where graduation ceremonies take place. In its partnership with Fairfield University, Simply Smiles is able to offer scholarships to students on the Reservation to attend the Connecticut university.

catching up with old and new friends

A pool party with new friends!

A pool party with new friends!

Autumn and Ashantii enjoy a fun moment at an evening barbecue to celebrate Erika's birthday!

Autumn and Ashantii enjoy a fun moment at an evening barbecue to celebrate Erika's birthday!

A trip to the Maritime Aquarium where the girls met some stingrays!

A trip to the Maritime Aquarium where the girls met some stingrays!

A beach cookout and reunion with Simply Smiles interns, who have all volunteered on the Reservation!

A beach cookout and reunion with Simply Smiles interns, who have all volunteered on the Reservation!

The girls enjoy a moment with Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Lakota activist and musician, who is from Cheyenne River Reservation and is responsible for Simply Smiles' involvement on the Reservation.

The girls enjoy a moment with Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Lakota activist and musician, who is from Cheyenne River Reservation and is responsible for Simply Smiles' involvement on the Reservation.


For a more in-depth discussion of the trip and the philosophy of Simply Smiles, be sure to listen to Simply Smiles Founder and President Bryan Nurnberger's interview with Tiokasin Ghosthorse on First Voices Indigenous Radio.


New York City Bound

Erika is all smiles outside of the Flatiron Building in NYC.

Erika is all smiles outside of the Flatiron Building in NYC.

Arrival at Grand Central Terminal.

Arrival at Grand Central Terminal.

Navigating the subway in New York City.

Navigating the subway in New York City.

A mighty moment: Sunni meets the Fearless Girl on Wall Street during a Saturday trip to New York City.

A mighty moment: Sunni meets the Fearless Girl on Wall Street during a Saturday trip to New York City.

The girls make their ascent to the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City.

The girls make their ascent to the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City.

Seeing the city from the Empire State Building!

Seeing the city from the Empire State Building!

Autumn, atop the Empire State Building!

Autumn, atop the Empire State Building!

Times Square!

Times Square!

celebrating self-expression & identity

Final presentations. On the final day of their writing immersion program at Fairfield University, the students from the Reservation present their work and collective project, rooted in themes of Lakota culture and identity.

Final presentations. On the final day of their writing immersion program at Fairfield University, the students from the Reservation present their work and collective project, rooted in themes of Lakota culture and identity.

The students also learned to express themselves through art, and Erika showed off her skills!

The students also learned to express themselves through art, and Erika showed off her skills!

The students also learned to express themselves through art, and Autumn showed off her tremendous talent!

The students also learned to express themselves through art, and Autumn showed off her tremendous talent!

The girls pose with their peers and other students who participated in the Writing Project at Fairfield University.

The girls pose with their peers and other students who participated in the Writing Project at Fairfield University.

Most of our language and culture was taken away from us in the past, but we fought and stood up for ourselves and got some of it back. Now when people see us in public, they get all surprised and ask us if we still live in tipis and hunt buffalo....Our lives haven’t been easy, but it’s gotten a little better.

- an excerpt from Ashantii's piece on the Lakota language

The girls made wojapi, or a traditional Lakota berry sauce, with fry bread for their workshop mates during their second week of the Writing Project.

The girls made wojapi, or a traditional Lakota berry sauce, with fry bread for their workshop mates during their second week of the Writing Project.

The following poem, In Resistance, Standing Against The Bull, is the culmination of the students' two-week writing exercises, rooted in themes of Lakota culture and identity:

(click or tap the poem to enlarge)

To read more of the work produced by the students, please click here.


This trip would not have been possible without the generosity and kindness of our Simply Smiles community! Thank you!

Thank you to all who sponsored the trip!

And, a special thank you to The National Writing Project, The Connecticut Writing Project, Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, CWP-Fairfield's director, and the staff of the CWP-Fairfield program, Fairfield University, Dr. Peter Bayers, the Nurnberger, Rotatori and Berry families, Kristen Graves, Alex Gross, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Jadina Lilien, Kelly Bessett.

 
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