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Brooklyn judge returns to her elementary school every year for Dr. Seuss Day

March 9, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Just like they have done every year since 2014, members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association were at P.S. 274 in Bushwick last Monday to participate in Read Across America’s annual Dr. Seuss Day

It’s a tradition in no small part because of the actions of Judge Joanne Quinones, who helped to start the program seven years ago.

Each year, between 40 and 60 kindergarten and first grade students take part in the annual Read Across America Dr. Seuss Day with the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

“It’s so much fun to come and read to these kids every year,” said Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix. “This wouldn’t be possible without the work that Joanne does. Every year, when the BWBA board has its first budgetary meeting at the Women’s Bar, she is there fighting for this to make sure that it is in the budget again.”

Judge Quinones is quick to point out that she didn’t organize the event alone and that a lot of the women who attend every year help out in the planning. She also explained that the inaugural event in 2014 wasn’t even paid for by her or the BWBA, but instead her friends Cheri Gatling, Jacqueline Lawson-Oates, Rachel Villarini, Annette Mutunga and Angela Mitchell footed the bill for much of it.

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“The BWBA did pay for the books that we gave to the kids that year so they helped out, but those women were the ones who paid for all of the swag that we gave out that year,” Judge Quinones said.

From left: Carrie Anne Cavallo, Maria Neri, Deborah Johnson, Hon. Joanne Quinones, Kemar Kermitt, Principal Maritza Ollivierra, Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Hon. Nancy Bannon, Madeline Kirton, Natoya McGhie and John Coffey.

“Cheri Gatling is a retired police officer, and she came to the first RAA dressed as the Cat in the Hat,” Judge Quinones continued. “The other women are all clerks or retired court officers and sergeants. They did it as a surprise. I did not know they were doing it and I asked them for not one red cent.”

Every year, a group of about 10 members of the bar association head to the Bushwick elementary school which Judge Quinones attended as a child. They read to the kids, usually kindergarten students and first graders, and they pass out cake, make the children recite an oath to read and give them gift bags.

President-elect Natoya McGhie has been to just about every Read Across America event.

The purpose is not just to read to the students, although that is certainly the biggest part of it, but also to expose them to judges and lawyers in a setting where they can see that they’re normal people.

“The students really love it and the ones who have done it before really look forward to it,” said Maritza Ollivierra, the principal of P.S. 274. “Joanne is so charismatic and has such a great personality that these kids don’t easily forget this experience.

Madeline Kirton participates in her first Read Across America event with the BWBA.

“It’s such a great day because Dr. Seuss is an author that they know and love, and to get an opportunity to interact with the judges,” Ollivierra continued, “what a memorable experience it is for them. Even some of the other staff and I look forward to it.”

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