GWN Grads: The Next Chapter

This post was written by communications intern, Madison Campbell.

Our senior girls were just as successful as ever this year, with a 100% graduation rate from high school. The graduates will be moving on to attend an extremely impressive list of colleges and universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Syracuse University, Howard University, Pomona College, Stanford University, Pace University, Skidmore College, Harvard College, College of Staten Island, New York University and more. Our mentees have come so far and have accomplished so much, and we are so proud of them!

Here are a few of the GWN mentees who will soon be beginning their freshman years at college:

Carmin Wong has been a mentee for two years, and will be attending Howard University this  fall. Carmin’s mentor, Hadia, says, “I have seen her grow and develop a distinct and strong voice, and as a teacher and friend, it has been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of her journey. I cannot wait to see her take on the world. And she will!” Carmin and Hadia wrote a powerful piece together called “Who Am I,” which discusses race, identity, and how others perceive them. Check it out below!

Second year mentee Karla Kim graduated from Hunter College High School, and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania this  fall – with a National Merit Scholarship! Karla’s mentor, Sherry, explains, “Helping her discover herself as a writer has reawakened my joy of the craft.” This past April, Karla wrote and performed a piece titled, “Dear Christina Yang: Farewell to My Person,” which was also featured on the Huffington Post.

Angelica Rozza, third year mentee, will be attending State University of New York at New Paltz this  fall. She graduated from Long Island City High School, and won a Merit Scholarship to State University of New York at Potsdam. Angelica says of her mentor, Joanna, “Without her support and motivation, senior year and the college application process would have been a nightmare.” Angelica wrote and performed a piece titled, “The Woman Upstairs” at our June CHAPTERS reading.

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Ambassadors of the Arts

This post was written by communications intern, Emely Paulino.

This summer, our mentees have been involved with some incredible leadership initiatives. From opening the Youth I.N.C State of the Market Conference to speaking at the YWCA Symposium, meet our ambassadors of the arts!

Rumer LeGendre — Second-year mentee Rumer LeGendre was selected to perform at a reading of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” at the Harlem Hospital Pavilion on June 16th! Partnered with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the event was a celebration of what it means to be female in the 21st century, with a focus on empowering women and girls.

Taysha Clark — Mentee alum and Youth Board member Taysha Clark spoke at the YWCA Potential to Power Girls Symposium on June 2nd, 2014. Taysha is the President and Founder of the Barnard College Civil Liberties Club, and United Nations Representative for Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. Currently, she is a sophomore at Barnard College majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Sociology and Race and Ethnic Studies.

Priscilla Guo – “GWN has been my sisterhood of traveling pens/ Has been a place to grow/ By working a lot harder/ By being a self-starter/ By going so much farther/ I’m coming up taller.” On June 17,  recent GWN grad Priscilla Guo opened the Youth I.N.C State of the Market Conference with her poem, Coming Up Taller. Over 300 private equity representatives and senior investment professionals convened for the 7th annual State of the Market conference, with Governor Mitt Romney and David Bonderman as headliners. The two-day conference aimed to raise funds for Youth I.N.C., an organization that financially supports youth-serving non-profits — one of them being GWN!

20140618_092754Steve Orr (Founder & Executive Director, Youth Inc.), Priscilla Guo (Mentee, GWN), and Rebecca Haverson (Writing & Mentoring Program Manager, GWN)

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Girls Write Now Presents: Ode to Malala

“Malala Yousafzai and Girls Write Now share the notion that one young woman’s voice can open up great possibilities. I like to think that’s true.” –Suzzy Roche

In honor of Malala Day, Girls Write Now is proud to present “Ode to Malala,” a music video that was born two years ago when mentee, Priscilla Guo, was moved to write a poem about 15-year-old Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on her way to school. For us at Girls Write Now, Malala Day represents everything we’re working for. A girl’s voice matters, and Girls Write Now is making that happen, one girl at a time.

On June 12th, Malala turned 17. To honor her and her ever-important work, the Girls Write Now community is sharing this music video as we as an organization also head into our 17th year.

We are all Malala. We all have stories to tell. Let yours be heard. Watch this video and support the next generation of women writers. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit the Malala Fund.

Girls Write Now presents “Ode to Malala,” which was born through a collaboration of creative forces. Priscilla Guo, a graduating fourth year mentee headed to Harvard this fall, wrote a poem inspired by Malala and performed it at the 2012 International Day of the Girl and at Lincoln Center. Legendary folk singer-songwriter Suzzy Roche, Priscilla, and third-year mentee Najaya Royal collaborated on adapting the poem into lyrics, which Suzzy then put to music. When we debuted it at the 2014 Girls Write Now Awards, honoring Dawn L. Davis, Roberta Kaplan, and Gloria Steinem, Gloria Steinem said after hearing it for the first time: “That was the best song I’ve ever heard. Absolutely great!”

The song was performed by students of the Princeton Atelier 496 program, a program Toni Morrison helped start in 1994, under the guidance of Suzzy Roche and Meg Wolitzer, and recorded by Stewart Lerman. The filmmakers Andrew Zox and Daniel Zox, directed this outstanding music video in multiple locations throughout New York City. They said of the process, “it was incredible filming a music video to a song inspired by Malala Yousafzai, written by a young female poet, and performed by a legendary female folk artist.” “Ode to Malala” is now available on iTunes.

We are so thrilled to share it with you!

Learn more about the Girls Write Now girls involved:

Priscilla Guo is a rising freshman at Harvard University. In 2014, Priscilla was named one of Business Insider’s “Most Impressive High School Graduates.” She was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to serve as a youth representative on the New York City Youth Board and is tasked with advising the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development on growing youth programming. Priscilla founded her high school’s UNICEF chapter and served as its President for four years. An impassioned champion for girls’ education, Priscilla serves as a National Teen Advisor to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that empowers American teens to raise awareness and funds for U.N. programs that aid some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. She also recently worked with Congresswoman Grace Meng on the Girls Count Act, which ensures girls receive birth certificates, documentation that is critical for accessing education, health and social services and career opportunities. As a writing fellow for NYCAN, she wrote and researched articles for education reform. Priscilla has been a mentee and Poetry Ambassador at Girls Write Now for four years. She says of Girls Write Now, “It has been my sisterhood of the traveling pens.”

Najaya Royal’s mother heard about Girls Write Now when she was eleven, and Najaya waited eagerly to apply. School was not always a safe place for her, much like Malala. In middle school, Najaya was cyber-bullied. Writing, a comfort to her since elementary school, gave her an outlet for expressing herself during this time. Now, she’s making waves with her poetry, already earning a Silver Key in Poetry from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and serving as a Brooklyn Community Foundation Peter Jay Sharp Youth Arts Fellow during 2013-2014.

Nishat Anjum was a second year mentee with Girls Write Now and is headed to Macaulay Honors at Brooklyn College this fall. A native of Bangladesh, Nishat is a recipient of the Silver Key in Short Story for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She reflects on her experience with her mentor, “Being a teenager is about developing your own identity and finding your place in the world. While I haven’t discovered what the universe wants me to do, I wouldn’t have realized my potential as a writer if I weren’t paired with Julie. Meeting Julie was like opening my eyes to the world beyond my island. I learned that sometimes the best story you can tell is your own, and that fewer words can have more significance. By encouraging me to reach past my comfort zones, Julie has given me a better perspective on who I am.”

Mennen Gordon will continue with Girls Write Now this fall, as she heads into her senior year at the Institute for Collaborative Education. She has already received a Silver Key Honorable Mention from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Rumer LeGendre, born and raised in New York City, is headed into her third year at Girls Write Now. In 2014, Rumer was chosen to perform at a reading of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf” ​at an event hosted by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.

Ariana Nicoletta is a member of our Youth Board, and describes Girls Write Now as the first creative outlet that accepted her freely and without judgment. Arianna attends New York University – Steinhardt, and majors in Communicative Sciences & Disorders.

Jade Rodriguez joined the GWN community as a sophomore, and will begin her junior year this fall. She attends the Urban Assembly Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists and writes for her school newspaper the BSSWA Bulletin. Because of Girls Write Now, she’s “taking risks and breaking through.” We are looking forward to watching her and her writing grow as she continues with Girls Write Now.

Natalia Vargas-Caba is a proud 2007 mentee-alum who works to further solidify the sense of sisterhood in the community by exploring new outlets and new inspirations. In 2014, she returned to Girls Write Now as a spring semester intern to give back for all the inspiring experiences the community had delivered to her as a young writer. She completed her English Associates Degree at Bronx Community College and will continue her studies at Sarah Lawrence in fall 2014 with a major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. When not interning or studying, Natalia can be found enclosed within the quiet, protective walls of an undiscovered cafe sipping hot green tea with Rimbaud’s words on hand.

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June Chapters Recap: Breaking Through and Moving Forward

This post was written by Mentee Shannon Daniels

Shannon at CHAPTERS

Shannon Daniels reads her piece at CHAPTERS on June 20th 2014.

        It didn’t hit me when I’d spun before the vanity mirrors of the green room, munched on granola bars and pretzels, and rehearsed with Amanda in the stairwell. It didn’t hit me when we practiced the first lines of our pieces one at a time, recited tongue twisters, and shook out our bodies before the show. It didn’t even hit me once I was on stage. Not when I walked down, not when I high-fived the row of mentees who’d cheered for me in the crowd. The thought that this would be my last CHAPTERS performance and as a Girls Write Now mentee is still hard for me to believe.

    After the show, my mentor, Whitney, flung her arms around me.

    “I hope they’re not taking pictures of me crying.”

    I laughed. “I think you’re good.”

    “I’m just so happy and proud of you,” she said. “I mean, this is your last CHAPTERS, our last year together, and you’ve grown up so much.”

        It was the best compliment anyone could’ve given me: not that my writing was “nice” or “interesting” or that I was special for winning awards, but that I had changed. I was different from the Shannon who never thought she could write plays or make a video game or create characters with complex, real relationships – none of which I could’ve done without Whitney’s guidance and encouragement.

        I made my way through the crowd. As I hugged and chatted with the mentees and mentors I’d befriended over the past three years, I realized that this really would be a good-bye, at least for a while. I’ll attend college on the opposite coast, miles from the community that has made New York a beautiful, bustling, electric part of me. I’ll miss the water towers and slosh of cars going over puddles outside my window. I’ll miss my parents, my friends, and the mentees who have become as engrained in my story as a stars in a constellation. But, more than anything, I feel ready for all the “breakthroughs” that lie ahead. I know that when I make my way back to New York, I’ll have a community of women waiting for my stories and eager to share their own

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Penguin Random House Global Walk for Girls Write Now

GWN_Header PRH Global Walk

This post was written by communications intern, Emely Paulino.

For the second year in a row, Girls Write Now was selected by Penguin Random House employees (last year, by Penguin Group) as the charity beneficiary of their Global Walk. On Friday, June 13th, Penguin Random House employees braved the rainy weather and walked along the Hudson in support of the next generation of women writers. 150 fundraisers and 950 individual donors collectively raised a record-breaking $46,500! All of the funds go to support our unique writing and mentoring programs that help  shape the future of women in writing and publishing. We would like to thank everyone who walked and fundraised for our program.

Said Geoffrey Kloske, Vice President and Publisher of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Random House, “Riverhead Books is looking for the next great new literary voices so it was an exciting honor to partner with Girls Write Now to help raise funds and awareness for the incredible work they are doing to mentor the female voices of the future.”

After the walk, employees met at the Riverside Boathouse for a few words from Markus Dohle, Chairman and CEO of Penguin Random House, and from us here at GWN.

Said Maya Nussbaum, Founder and Executive Director of Girls Write Now, “Last year, when both Penguin Group and Random House began partnering with Girls Write Now, the power was made clear of matching an intergenerational community of readers and writers with the industry that gives them a voice. We are  excited to continue this partnership, working with the world’s largest book publisher on behalf of our diverse and talented girls, poised to become the next generation of authors, editors, reviewers and publishers.”

Mentee alum, Emely Paulino, now a sophomore at Bard College, spoke about the impact of Girls Write Now on her life path. ”I don’t know what I would have done without the support from Girls Write Now,” she said. “I mean it. They helped me find my voice, and I will always be grateful for that.”

The event concluded with  remarks from Lyndsay Faye, a Girls Write Now mentor and Penguin Random House author. She discussed her relationship with her mentee, Karliis, and how special it was to watch her grow as a writer. Said Lyndsay, “I want to leave each of you personally with one request, and it isn’t to donate, and it isn’t to volunteer either, because you all have personal projects and obligations: if you could, for me, I would love for each of you to tell one other person about Girls Write Now, and just mention what we do and why we do it. Because that’s how I came to be a part of the team, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, so please: tell somebody about what you heard here, and thank you for coming.”

Thank you again to everyone at Penguin Random House for supporting Girls Write Now and giving  girls the opportunity to find their voices. Check out some photos from the event below!

From left to right: Mentee alum Emely Paulino, Maya Nussbaum, Markus Dohle, Lyndsay Faye and Michelle Paul

From left to right: Mentee alum Emely Paulino, Maya Nussbaum, Markus Dohle, Lyndsay Faye and Michelle Paul

PRH Global Walk 17

PRH Global Walk 4

PRH Global Walk 31

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College Bound Meets Morgan Stanley: The GWN Resume and Cover Letter Writing Workshop, 2014

This blog post was written by Program Intern, Emily Becker.

A group picture of College Bound participants with Morgan Stanley volunteers!

A group picture of College Bound participants with Morgan Stanley volunteers!

Upon first glance, the rigid mediums of the resume and cover letter may not seem conducive to best representing what makes you you. Yet these tools of the trade appear again and again at nearly every juncture—college applications, scholarships, and jobs all require the essential boiling down of your character to a couple 8 x 10s.

Mentee Misbah and a Morgan Stanley Volunteer working one-on-one to perfect her resume and cover letter.

Mentee Misbah and a Morgan Stanley Volunteer working
one-on-one to perfect her resume and cover letter.

That’s why Girls Write Now partnered with Morgan Stanley as a part of GWN’s College Bound Program and Morgan Stanley’s Women’s Business Alliance for an in-depth Resume and Cover Letter Writing workshop. College Bound participants learned all the ins and outs of concisely and unabashedly highlighting their skills and experiences. The girls had the amazing opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Morgan Stanley volunteers, a diverse group of incredible women who are all leaders and role models in their own right. During the session, the girls and volunteers worked tirelessly to hone the girls’ resumes and cover letters, identifying the their strengths and goals along the way. Between the determination of the girls and the wisdom of the volunteers, some truly wonderful resumes emerged!

Mentee alum Tatiana sharing her thoughts during Closing Lines.

Mentee alum Tatyana sharing
her thoughts during Closing Lines.

Best yet, these resumes were all about the bragging and not the bluffing. One of the most important lessons of the workshop was to not create a false persona to please college admissions or employers, but rather to pinpoint why the real you is most deserving of whatever position you’re after. One participant explained, “It was very interesting for me to realize the balance of putting my best foot forward and staying true to who I am in my resume and cover letter…at the end of the day when you walk into that room for an interview, they want to see you, for who you really are.” Certainly the College Bound girls have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to presenting their true selves. They are leaders and team players, writers and innovators, athletes and artists, and we can’t wait to see where their resumes will take them!

Listen to College Bound participants reflect on their experience
at the workshop during their Closing Lines.

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Chapters Roundup 2014

Tuhfa Begum performs her piece “The Feminist In Me” at CHAPTERS May 2014

Tuhfa Begum performs her piece “The Feminist In Me” at CHAPTERS May 2014

School’s out and summer’s here. We can’t believe another CHAPTERS season has passed, but what a year it’s been. On Friday June 20th, in an overflowing auditorium in SoHo, more than 250 audience members cheered as our girls took to the stage in the culminating reading of the 2014-15 program year. Keynote speaker Christina Baker Kline (#1 NYT bestselling author of Orphan Train) brought us home.

Earlier this spring, Amy Fusselman, Farai Chideya, and Ana Castillo—all rock star women writers—introduced our fearless and inspirational girls. Take a look back at Amy’s electrifying speech and hear about CHAPTERS straight from a mentee.

We couldn’t possibly show you all the magic of CHAPTERS in one short blog post, so instead, check out our snapshots of each reading. With videos of our guest authors, samples of pieces, and photo galleries, you won’t feel like you’ve missed a thing from March, April, May, or June. Plus, browse the blog and find out what it’s like to go from page to stage!

Samori Covington, “Earth, Wind & Fried Meatballs” at April CHAPTERS 2014

Ana Castillo talks to our mentees about the power of storytelling at May CHAPTERS 2014

The National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. CHAPTERS 2014 would not have been possible without our Readings Committee and Youth Board, Lauren Harms, Tom Hunt, and Dave Shuff. Thanks also to our deeply committed Board of Directors and Program Advisory Committee; our tireless staff, volunteer committees, and interns; and our countless individual donors.

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Five Things I Learned at Emoti-Con! 2014

This post was written by digital mentee Sharon Young after showcasing her digital media project at Emoti-Con! along with digital mentees Eda Tse and Shrien Alshabasy.

Girls Write Now at Emoti-Con! 2014

Sharon Young presents her piece The Marzipan Cafe to two Emoti-Con! judges

I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped through the entrance of the New York Public Library. There were people with gadgets and poster boards, parents with their kids, and a bunch of tables set up science fair style. We were an interesting bunch! I could tell a busy day was planned for us.

1. Be open to new experiences.

You never know what you might find or who you’ll meet. Emoti-Con! exposed me to other youth groups and their projects. For instance a group developed a prototype iPhone case that used solar energy to charge phones. The team at Mouse Corps designed an art palette that could assist users with disabilities. Another created a game to raise awareness of gun violence in their school community. All the projects we saw were unique and inspirational in their own way.

2. We spend a lot of time on our phones!

Because of this, why not make it meaningful? Every now and then, take time to stop and reflect. We’ve grown quite impatient since the information we access is within the reach of our fingertips. Think about the value of of photos, messages, and blogs we share and the impact it has on others.

3. Be open to try new technology.

At Emoti-Con! I was introduced to new terms and technologies. Before attending Emoti-Con! and Girls Write Now in general, I was scared of anything associated with “digital.” I was impressed to see the creative ideas proposed by the other youth groups that incorporated digital media. It has opened my eyes to the many different uses of digital media (e.g. social impact, entertainment, innovation).

Girls Write Now at Emoti-Con! 2014

Keynote Speakers Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez from Maker’s Row speak to an enthusiastic Emoti-Con! crowd.

4. Failure is okay.

We often hear stories of success but not much about the mishaps. One keynote speaker, Anil Dash, explained how it’s okay to hit a bump in the road. He shared a story about his friend David who did not do so well with his first company. Instead of being discouraged, he took a detour and ended up creating Tumblr. Whoa, you may think that’s a bit much! But the point is, taking a detour isn’t always bad. Your failures teach you where to improve and set you in a new direction to start again.


5. You can make a difference!

There were many wonderful keynote speakers who shared their experiences and how they got where they are today. One thing I got from them is that it’s never too early to try. We have time to try out new things and fail. But that’s okay, because it shows us what we’re capable of.

Girls Write Now at Emoti-Con! 2014

Eda Tse takes home the Most Entertaining award for her HTML piece: “Zombies on the Hudson River”

Overall, my first time at Emoti-Con! was an amazing experience. It was motivating to see other teens bringing forth ideas and people listening. To be surrounded with other enthusiastic kids in the same space was exhilarating and got me thinking about next year!

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GWSLP Visits GWN: A Discussion on Leadership, Social Change and the Power of Mentoring

This post was written by communications intern, Emely Paulino.

On Thursday, June 5th, the Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) visited our office to learn more about Girls Write Now and what we do. Affiliated with NYU-Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership in Action, GWSLP is comprised of fifteen Ghanaian women who are leaders in several social change programs in Ghana. Their mission is to develop the skills and knowledge to create effective social change in their communities. Many of the women are involved in human rights advocacy, gender rights and social change.

The site visit was structured Girls Write Now workshop style, with a Opening Lines exercise that asked them to think about a moment where they felt inspired. We also began the workshop by discussing what mentoring means to them and sharing their own experiences as either a mentee or a mentor. Led by Emily Coppel, our Digital Program Manager, the workshop focused on our unique mentoring program and how we have expanded over the years into three different programs: Writing and Mentoring, Digital Media Mentoring, and College Bound. Emely Paulino and Natalia Vargas-Caba answered questions about college prep, their experience as mentees and as participants in the Youth Board and GWN’s internship program. After the workshop, the women from GWSLP were eager to create a similar program in Ghana. We loved speaking to them and meeting other amazing women!

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May CHAPTERS Recap: Mentee Briana Marini reflects on the Girls Write Now experience

This post was written by Mentee Briana Marini


Brianna Marini (R) and her mentor Kristen Demaline (L) read at CHAPTERS

It’s hard to say that everything in a year long program comes down to one moment, but it kind of does: CHAPTERS. From the beginning at Girls Write Now, we’re told about the reading when we’ll get to stand on stage at Scholastic in Manhattan and share something that we’ve worked on for what seems like ages. For some it induces overwhelming nerves, for others there’s excitement and adrenaline running through their veins just hearing about it, and then there are those that experience both. From the first workshop to the point where we’re sitting in our plush red chairs and the house lights start to dim, the CHAPTERS experience is defined by anticipation.

Guest author Ana Castillo’s words were probably the first time of the night that all of the readers, mentees and mentors alike, are totally focused on the same thing. All of the mentees listen carefully for gems of advice, words of wisdom that can be passed from someone that has worked in the business that we all want to make our ways into someday. Castillo has an amazing voice for storytelling and she shared that she wished she’d had such an amazing program when she was younger.

My mentor Kristen Demaline and I were the second readers this time. We were up on stage before we knew it, reading a piece that we’d spent a lot of time passing back and forth, getting the comedic timing just right as well as putting in enough mushy-gushy stuff to show that this is our last piece together under the wings of Girls Write Now. I talk about how we’ve been together for three years and how much I’ve learned from her, while she talks about how she can’t wait to see how well I do in college; something that’s a given, in her mind. Then we’re off the stage and grinning at each other as we sit down and another reader takes our abandoned spot on the Scholastic stage, introducing herself and her piece.

CHAPTERS is an amazing event. It shows how much all of the mentees and mentors have learned and grown from being a part of Girls Write Now. It gives girls a place for our voices to be heard, somewhere we can really show what we think and feel. It brings together a community that’s supportive of each other and everyone’s work till the very end. It gives mentees without confidence a place to gain it and mentors the chance to see their mentees shine. It gives families a place to come together in a creative way and be a part of our community. As a graduating senior, I know that CHAPTERS gave me a place to get back in touch with my performing background, one that had become rusty after years of not being onstage. It’s one of the events that I’ll miss most when I’m no longer a mentee. More than anything about CHAPTERS, however, I’ll miss my fellow mentees who I read with and the ability to hear their amazing pieces from the front row.

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