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Theater in Education and Community Development

 

Jessica holds an M.A. in Applied Theater from CUNY School of Professional Studies and has worked in a variety of theater-based education methods, including Theater of the Oppressed, process drama, and creating original theater with people not formally trained as actors. She is an affiliated artist with HiveMind Theater Company and is on the Lifetime Arts Creative Aging Roster, a peer-reviewed directory of teaching artists who serve older adults. She has also designed and taught drama-based ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for adults in Brooklyn (MCIF Center) and Philadelphia (Nationalities Service Center). Her work focuses on building collaborative, communication, and leadership skills; generating dialogue; and addressing issues of concern to communities and groups.

 

Case Study:  Safe in This Place:  A Franklin Avenue Theater and Dialogue Project

 

While living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jessica co-designed and facilitated an eight-week theater-based community project to explore the question, "What does it mean to be safe in this neighborhood?" Safe in This Place brought together residents and business owners of diverse ages, races, and socio-economic classes to dialogue about this question through theater.  The project culminated in a public event attended by over 60 people in which project participants shared theatrical work as a way to inform a broader neighborhood dialogue about issues of gentrification, police presence, and neighborhood change. Several of the project participants subsequently became engaged in other neighborhood groups to address community issues; and the local community association, inspired by the neighborhood dialogue, began to hold town hall meetings to elicit and talk about community concerns.

 

 

Community and Adult Education

 

Jessica also holds an M.A. in Adult Education & Community Development from the University of Toronto and has served in community and adult education roles since 1999. At the YMCA of Greater Seattle, she designed and facilitated teen programs and, more recently, has worked as an educator leading parent-daughter workshops with the Girls Leadership Institute in New York City. She has taught adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) with Lutheran Children and Family Services in Philadelphia and served for two years as Head Instructor overseeing the education program at the Maura Clarke-Ita Ford (MCIF) Center in Brooklyn. She currently teaches adult ESOL with District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund and with Temple University’s Intensive English Language Program (IELP). Jessica was a co-founder of the Philadelphia Trainers' Collaborative, which, for four years, offered skill-sharing and networking opportunities for Philly-area trainers and educators interested in participatory approaches to education.

 

Case Study:  Adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

 

As an adult ESOL class instructor, Jessica developed and taught original theme- and project-based learning curriculum for students ranging in age from early 20's to over 60. During a trimester focused on community, she assigned a group project to research a neighborhood issue and present a proposal for addressing the issue. Project components involved a community walk to map neighborhood problems, interviews with service providers and advocates, and identification of community resources.  Students presented their research and proposals to other students at the school. Jessica conceived and developed the project drawing on local resources, including setting up interviews and researching local organizations working on the issues that the students identified. Students gained group work and presentation skills, as well as the skills to research and speak about community issues that affect them.

 

 

Civic Engagement

 

Jessica has worked as a community organizer with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, coordinated an awareness-raising project about immigration detention with the Washington Alliance for Immigrant and Refugee Justice, and organized the first statewide lobby day for the PA Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC). She has served as the Public Engagement Coordinator for the United Way of Southeastern PA and the Assistant Director for the 11th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, engaging over 40,000 people in service in the tri-state region. She believes in education and relationship-building as the basis for sustained community engagement.

 

Case Study:  Get Engaged: City Boards and Commissions

 

Jessica implemented a model civic engagement program that engaged younger adults, ages 18 to 29, on Seattle city boards and commissions. Her role included setting eligibility criteria, recruiting participants, developing program materials, coordinating and participating in the selection process, establishing mentoring relationships, and arranging on-going leadership training and social opportunities for the new young adult board members. The program also involved working closely with city staff, responding to media inquiries, and coordinating events to highlight program achievements. Get Engaged started in 2001 as a pilot project with two years of grant funding. By the end of those two years, the City of Seattle committed funding to help support the project, and Get Engaged is still going strong.

 

 

Recent Clients:

 

Mariposa Food Co-op

Worked with Blue Door partner Susanna Gilbertson in designing and facilitating the first two stages of the co-op's strategic planning process.  Used an Interactive Planning process to engage a wide range of diverse stakeholders to contribute their voice to building a collective vision of Mariposa’s ideal future. 

 

University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering & Applied Science

Designed and facilitated a two-session class on Intercultural Awareness in Teamwork as part of a series of professional skills workshops for engineering undergraduate students in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.  Students engaged in a simulation of a multinational collaborative project, learned a theoretical framework for understanding intercultural communication, and applied a DIET (describe, interpret, evaluate, take action) model for analysis of intercultural interactions.

 

Quaker Voluntary Service

Designed and facilitated a 5-hour workshop with year-of-service Fellows in Philadelphia. The workshop offered tools to assist the Fellows in planning and facilitating their own in-service trainings using interactive approaches.

 

 

 

Jessica Levy

 

 

Jessica works in the intersections of theater, education, and civic engagement. With over fifteen years in the nonprofit & public sectors, she has designed and implemented civic participation initiatives, arts-based community programs, and a variety of education, service, and advocacy events. Her work has included immigrant rights organizing, community education, and creating theater with and for a variety of audiences. She is interested in embodied learning, placemaking, and the role of the arts in strengthening institutions, communities, and movements.