Hudson Valley Parent

HVP January 2016

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Page 8 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 9 of their day. Although Spark Media is based in Poughkeepsie, workshops and classes can be found throughout the Hudson Valley. Her greatest joy as a parent: watching her own children grow and develop into the funny, confident, and caring people they're becoming. "I love so many things about being a parent," she says. "Every age they've ever been I can hold onto that, go back to that in my mind, and it gives me different feelings of love every time I remember." Under Fenichel-Hewitt's guidance, Spark Media has gone from being an organization carrying a significant amount of debt into being a robust economic engine via its Forge Media project, an apprentice production program. "They're gaining skills, building their portfolios and getting the opportunities to work on profes- sional sets with clients in the com- munity who are hiring us to produce commercial work," says Fenichel- Hewitt. "For many of them, it's a life changing opportunity." F irm rules about media As her kids get older, Fenichel- Hewitt empowers them more at home: To make their own breakfasts I am a Hudson Valley Parent Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt: Lighting the spark By BRIAN PJ CRONIN A few years after graduating college, Nicole Fenichel- Hewitt and her husband looked around at their Long Island town and decided it wasn't home. "We realized that it wasn't the com- munity we wanted to raise a family in," she recalls. So the couple quit their jobs and spent the next few months traveling the country, trying to find where they fit in. They ended up in Stone Ridge, NY, where Fenichel-Hewitt's brother was living and not far from where she grew up in the first place. "The Hudson Valley has an amaz- ing sense of community and I don't say that lightly," she says. Back on Long Island as a community orga- nizer, she knew hundreds of people, but almost never ran into them out on the street. Yet when she moved back to the Hudson Valley, she kept running into the same five people she knew in town over and over again, and knew she was finally in a community. "You walk out your front door and you see people you like, that you're familiar with and who understand you a little," she says. Parenting and working on her career brings many joys Home at last, the couple now have two children: Elias, 12, and Cora, 11. While her children bring her many joys, there's another joy, and that is as the executive director of Spark Media Project, an organiza- tion that teaches kids about filmmaking. Not only that, but kids learn how to interpret and respond critically to all the media that is increasingly around them for much and pack their own snacks for the day. "I'm there, but I'm trying to get them to do more of that themselves," she says. "Some days we're on point and some days I'm doing everything while they get dressed because they couldn't get up on time." One of her family's favorite activities after dinner is watching something on TV altogether. But just because their mom appreciates the value of media, it doesn't mean that they get unlimited screen time. "Technology comes into every parent's lives, as far as what is and is not allowable, and we're no differ- ent," she says. She's found that having firm rules in place regarding media consump- tion helps. "It's great not to have to negotiate every time they want to watch something," she says. "We don't have constant debates as to how much the kids can watch and when." The best part is chatting at bedtime Once screen time is over the fam- ily gets ready for bed, and Fenichel- Hewitt says that's the time when her kids are most likely to let their guard down and really open up. "My kids tell me things that I think a lot of kids wouldn't tell their parents," she says. "Surprising things come out at bedtime. They're very honest about their stresses, their interests, and ques- tions they have about the universe. That's probably the most special part of my day." Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer . His work appears through- out the Hudson Valley. "Surprising things come out at bedtime. They're very honest about their stresses, their interests, and questions they have about the universe."

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