New Jersey Stage

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friends Of The Books & Beyond Project Hold Inaugural Gala

(Montclair, NJ) -- Friends of the Books & Beyond Project will be holding an Inaugural Gala on Sunday, January 16th at 7:00 PM at the historic venue, Bangz Salon and Wellness Spa located at 23 S. Fullerton Ave. Montclair, New Jersey.

The star-studded event will feature cast members of the Broadway hit, "Lombardi", Jeremy Sisto, TV and film star (Law and Order, Six Feet Under, Clueless, Angel Eyes, Waitress), book signing by Michael Uslan, Batman film producer, performance by Pop Sensation Alex Young, Designer Fashion Show by Sofistafunk: The Skirt Co., and other entertainment by Richard Reiter.

The gala catered by Branches Catering of West Long Branch will include hors d'oeuvres and a "Dessert After Party". The evening will also feature a signature Tequila Bar by Inocente. There will be live and silent auctions, featuring many celebrity signed items including Basketball, Hockey tickets and Lady Gaga tickets among many other exciting items.

"Friends of The Books & Beyond Project, Shaping our Children's Future Through Creative Writing, Skill Building and Mentoring From the USA to Rwanda and Back",  benefits The Books & Beyond Project a unique tripod educational structure.

Nancy E. Uslan, Founder and President of Friends of The Books & Beyond Project, is the visionary behind the Books & Beyond Project. After traveling to Rwanda with Animal Activist, Jack Hanna, to observe the making of a documentary about the endangered Mountain Gorillas, she saw an educational need for the Rwandan children. Rwanda, still struggling to recover from the horrors of the 1994 Genocide and its desire to convert their education system into English, sparked an idea in Nancy.

She envisioned a student-driven, skill-building educational program connecting our American and Rwandan youth to other parts of the globe. The Books & Beyond Project was born. A tripod educational structure was successfully created by project partners from our Newark TEAM Schools, Indiana University Global Village and the Kabwende Primary School in Kinigi, Rwanda.

This model program and its impact is best seen in the response from Newark's TEAM.

"My vision was to bring literacy and critical thinking skills to Rwandan children through a creative collaboration between students at Indiana University and TEAM Schools in Newark, NJ.  Our American students write and illustrate children's stories which are published in a book that is used as a teaching tool for Rwandan children. This process provides a landscape of opportunities for all who are giving and receiving.  Nothing is more rewarding than to see the students at work here in the US and to look into the eyes of the grateful Rwandan children when we arrive with their books" said Nancy Uslan.

Schools' youth willingly come to school on Saturdays to participate in this extraordinary project. They write and illustrate books, while being mentored via Skype by Indiana University students. The books, each with their own theme, such as home and environment, are then published for the Rwandan students. Each summer, participating students travel to Rwanda to deliver the books and observe, first hand, how they are changing lives. This project fosters literacy, critical thinking skills and empowers our youth to be global minded citizens.

"The Books & Beyond project is an amazing gift to my students. As an educator I see the long term impact of this project for them, how it builds their confidence and self esteem while greatly improving their literacy and writing skills. It is uplifting to watch my students form bonds with their writing partners at Indiana University, and equally rewarding to travel to Rwanda with them to watch the students at the Kabwende school read and learn from our books. The Rwandan students in turn write their own stories. It is a magical process" said Ali Nagel, trustee.

"Friends of the Books & Beyond Project" has attracted many important people throughout the state. The founding group of trustees is building to include:

Michael Uslan: Executive Producer of all the "Batman" movies. He won the Emmy Award for bringing the educational series "Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?" to television.  With a Masters in Urban Education he realizes the importance in the project his wife, Nancy, envisioned.

Toby Shylit Mack: Businesswoman, philanthropist, patron of the arts, NJ and national community leader.

Carol Waksal: Philanthropist and community leader.

Ali Nagel: Co-Founder of The Books & Beyond Project program. Fifth Grade Teacher at  Newark Team Academy/TEAM Schools

Lauren Caldarera: Co-Founder of The Books & Beyond Project program. Assistant Director of Indiana University Global Village

"I was drawn to this project and inspired by Nancy Uslan's vision. It encompasses many of my core values and beliefs. I am a strong proponent of education through the arts, and creating a better world for our children. Observing the children at work and seeing their enthusiasm and commitment was inspirational. The creative process taps in to their humanity. This project has opened doors for them that will help ensure a brighter future for us all", said Toby Shylit Mack.

Meryl Streep was introduced to the Books & Beyond Project at the Indiana University Women's Colloquium. "I read Nancy Uslan's Books and Beyond speech and was blown away by her imaginative program and the inspiration it gives to all of us regarding the Power of One and the possibilities of individual initiative."

Gala Tickets: $75 Non-Profit Donation                                 

Limited Availability. To buy tickets, volunteer and for more information visit: