About The Civic Circle

The Civic Circle is a Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit that brings civics alive for very young children with music and drama shared in assembly and after-school programs. For more information, please contact Eliza Newlin Carney at ecarney@theciviccircle.org.


Cassidy Little

Cassidy Little

Program Specialist

Cassidy Little has combined experience in social work and education. She joined The Civic Circle as a teacher in 2022, and now serves as a Program Specialist helping administer workshops. Cassidy has worked as a substitute teacher, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Delaware State University. She is committed to delivering high-quality programs to underserved populations.

Meredith Warden

Meredith Warden

AmeriCorps VISTA Team Member

Meredith Warden has experience in writing, educational advocacy, and historical research. She has worked as a contributing historical researcher for Preservation Pittsburgh, as a college writing tutor, and as an intern at the Library of Congress's Young Readers Center. She recently received a B.A. in History from Oberlin College. She is The Civic Circle's AmeriCorps VISTA Team Member.


Rio Liu

Rio Liu

Program Associate and Teaching Artist

Rio Liu is a professional dancer and actor from Los Angeles. After receiving a B.A. Dance from the University of California, Irvine, he worked in T.V. and film while also working independently as a dance instructor and choreographer for studios and high schools throughout Southern California, including the Momentum Dance Center in Yorba Linda. Rio is committed to mentoring young students to find and nurture their artistic voices.

Damon Modarres

Damon Modarres

Program Assistant and Teaching Artist

Damon Modarres is a musician and educator based in Rockville, Maryland, and senior at American University. While a student at Northwest High School, Damon was active in an extracurricular STEAM program called the Secret Society of Songwriters, and returned after graduating as a teaching assistant. A longtime tutor, Damon has also worked with local youth organizations such as SMYAL and DC Teens Action.


Italia Massalla


Italia Massalla is a Montgomery College STEM and Nursing degree candidate with a passion for teaching and mentoring young students. She has classroom experience teaching students ranging from 1st to 5th Grades in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is a Civic Circle Teacher.


Benny Mattis

Web & Marketing Intern

Benny Mattis is a student in the Web Development program at Montgomery College. He comes to The Civic Circle with several years of prior experience leveraging technology in the social sector, and has a history of offering tech support pro bono to educational initiatives. Benny is also an AmeriCorps alum and a former tutor.

Lucy Ramos-B

Lucy Ramos


Lucy Ramos is seeking a B.A. from the University of Maryland in English Language and Literature, with a focus in Secondary Education, and a minor in Creative Writing. She was a Senate Page for the Maryland General Assembly in 2021. She is a student assistant at the University of Maryland Libraries, and was previously a camp counselor and the head baker in a pastry kitchen.

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Marissa Barnwell

Marissa Barnwell

Marissa Barnwell is a Texas-based dancer with a focus in hip hop, lyrical, and jazz. She is a dance major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Marissa started dancing at the age of three, and while growing up was a competitive dancer, and worked with choreographers around the country. She strives to be a role model for young dancers, and to encourage dancers of color to fight for their dreams.

Malachi Byrd

Malachi Byrd

Malachi Byrd is Washington, D.C. author, poet, teacher, songwriter, and arts advocate. An African-American Studies graduate from Princeton University, “MalPractice” gets his name from his commitment to mastering his crafts. He was the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate for D.C., has published three books and four albums, and is founder of the Crowning Too Early Scholarship Fund.

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Gayle Danley

Gayle Danley is an acclaimed poet who performs and teaches poetry to children all over Maryland. She is the Maryland Library Association's Poet of the Year, Young Audiences of Maryland Artist of the Year, and Young Audiences National Artist of the Year. She is a former national and international poetry slam champion, and is a  Kennedy Center master teaching artist.

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Janice Greene

Janice Curtis Greene is an award-winning Author, Master Storyteller and Historical Reenactor, and American Griot. She has been telling African, African American and Multicultural stories for more than 30 years. She is Past President and Life Member of both the Griots' Circle of Maryland, Inc. and the National Association of Black Storytellers.

Carolina Hernandez

Carolina Hernández

A native of Colombia, Carolina Hernández has experience in Middle Eastern dance, Bollywood, Turkish, Colombian folklore, and Latin dances. She is the founder and the director of GET Dance Company (Global Expressions Through Dance) in Rockville, where she teaches Colombian Folklore, Latin American Dances and World Dance. She has performed throughout the United States, as well as in Turkey, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador.

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Munit Mesfin

Munit Mesfin is an award-winning Ethiopian singer, songwriter, and teaching artist. Her performances blend her Ethiopian roots with the music she loves–roots, soul, reggae. In addition to touring, recording, teaching and consulting, she is also a cultural organizer and entrepreneur, and performs with her daughters as “Munit and z Lovebugs.” She also serves a teaching artist and project director with Carpe Diem Arts.

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Lea Morris

Lea Morris is an award-winning songwriter well known to Washington area audiences. She has worked extensively with students and adults in a variety of settings, from sing-alongs to songwriting workshops. She has performed extensively in the U.S. and Europe, including at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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Nick Newlin

Nick Newlin has been entertaining children of all ages for 30 years as NicoloWhimsey with his high-energy super-fun comedy juggling act, including storytelling, poetry and audience participation. He also directs plays at the high school level and has written a book series called “The 30-Minute Shakespeare.” Nick also plays rock and roll accordion!

Gabrielle Zwi

Gabrielle Zwi

Gabrielle Zwi is a community organizer, educator and musician who advises the local youth organization DC Teens Action, and serves on the City of Rockville’s Human Rights Commission. Gabrielle also serves as a Public Representative on Montgomery County’s Committee Against Hate/Violence, and is a singer, songwriter and recording artist who regularly performs throughout the region.