Stephanie Thompson: Youth leader ‘Inspires’ students to be art smart

Stephanie Thompson
Photo by Jason Speakman

Stephanie Thompson isn’t happy that some kids benefit from New York City’s wellspring of creativity, but others don’t. That’s why the freelance writer, who writes about the arts, advertising, health, and education, started InspireCorps, a group that brings creative professionals and curious students together.

Thompson’s own kids’ school in Park Slope was rich in volunteers and funds to provide enrichment through arts, and Thompson’s contributions — like fund-raising, running arts programs, and arranging author visits — didn’t hurt. Yet when she volunteered as a tutor at other Brooklyn schools she found they lacked the resources needed to fulfill the anxious, distracted, uninterested — and smart — kids she met.

All that changed when she gave them a chance to express themselves creatively, and they began to focus and engage.

“Kids should love to learn — not sit in school, and be bored and upset,” says Thompson, who writes the “Fearless Parenting” column in The Brooklyn Paper.

The swift transformations sparked InspireCorps, which assembles musicians, photographers, illustrators, dancers, and other artists, who lead hands-on workshops and expose students to multiple art forms, while encouraging them to follow their interests.

“Letting kids gravitate to what they’d like to do means they’re going to be the most engaged,” says Thompson, whose own writing engagements have aired on NBC’s “Today Show” and “Fox News.”

Terry Radigan leads a song-writing program for InspireCorps, and has seen previously introverted kids flourish as they begin to find their voices.

“It’s been really wonderful,” she says. “It’s incredible for the kids.”

Radigan describes Thompson as exceptionally committed, tenacious and inquiring about developing InspireCorps.

“Stephanie’s work is all about the kids,” she says. “She had the patience to wait and make sure that what the kids ended up getting was in the best interest for them, and not what she had envisioned for InspireCorps, or what was the best for the school.”

Where does someone who works so hard to motivate others draw inspiration for herself?

“Eleanor Roosevelt was always my mentor and my model,” says Thompson. “What she did was bring people together, she was a real connector and understood that everybody had to work together.”

Thompson’s goal was always to inspire teachers and administrators as well as kids, and InspireCorps has an ongoing relationship with PS 81 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which draws a great deal of its students from the city housing development across the street — incredibly named the Eleanor Roosevelt Houses.

This is no mere coincidence for Thompson.

“I’m a big believer in the signs that show you you’re in the right place at the right time and on the right path,” says the Woman of Distinction.

Neighborhood: Park Slope.

Occupation: Freelance writer; founder and executive director of InspireCorps.

Company: InspireCorps.

Claim to Fame: “Being a mom to my gorgeous boys, my cooking and entertaining, and getting my ideas out to the world.”

Favorite Brooklyn Place: Prospect Park. “I absolutely love getting lost in the woods with my dog, Ginger.”

Woman I Admire: “Eleanor Roosevelt because she took her important position in the world very seriously, speaking frankly and with great empathy about how equality should be achieved with a view to people who had the power to make it happen.”

Motto: “Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think.” — Michel de Montaigne

More from Around New York