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AmeriCorps Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service

Written by Dwight Bachman


Willimantic, Conn: --On April 1, mayors across the United States will recognize AmeriCorps Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service. The day salutes the contributions of AmeriCorps members to the nation.
 
In Connecticut, mayors from Bridgeport to Windham will participate and recognize the contribution of 5,800 active service members across the state. To celebrate AmeriCorps, Food Corps, Teach for America and other service corps in Windham, Mayor Ernie Eldridge will read an official town proclamation during a gardening service project at Natchaug Elementary School at 3:30 p.m. at 123 Jackson.  The event, sponsored by GROW Windham, runs to 5:45 p.m. The public is invited; admission is free.

Representatives from Eastern Connecticut State University, The Windham Area Hour Exchange, Eastern Area Health Education Center, Windham Public Schools and several other organizations in town with service corps members, will participate in the event. Current and former service corps members are encouraged to wear AmeriCorps apparel or bring AmeriCorps promotional materials.

 

Chief Justice Rogers and Judge Kahn to Speak at Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Two high-level Connecticut court officials will speak at Eastern Connecticut State University on March 26 for Eastern's University Hour series. At 3 p.m. in the Student Center Theatre, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and Superior Court Judge Maria Kahn will speak with the Eastern community about justice and the judicial system in today's world. 

Born and raised in Angola, Africa, Kahn was appointed a Superior Court Judge in 2006 and currently is assigned to hear criminal matters in the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse. She moved to the United States at 10 years of age, is fluent in three languages and serves on a number state and national Bars. 

Rogers, a Connecticut native, was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2007--the second woman ever to reach this designation in Connecticut. She was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the State Justice Institute's Board of Directors. In addition to serving on a number of prestigious Bars and committees, Rogers is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

"The event is open to the public and will be organized in a question-and-answer format," said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women's Center. "Arrive early at the Student Center Theatre to ensure a good seat."

"Eastern in 4," Eastern's Revamped Academic Plan

Written by Michael Rouleau


Willimantic, Conn. - As part of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013-18 Strategic Plan, "Eastern in 4" is now a requirement for current students and incoming freshmen. The goal of "Eastern in 4" is to lay out a tight and comprehensive plan--including academic and career goals--that will lead students to their bachelor's degrees in four years.

"Eastern in 4" has existed as an informal objective for several years now, but recent data supporting the need for college-career planning has caused the University to revamp and mandate the program. "There are so many options and requirements in a college setting," said Alison Garewski, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students unknowingly taking courses they don't need--costing them more money and prolonging their time in college--is an issue nationwide."

With nearly 1,000 freshman at Eastern this year, approximately 650 have completed their academic plans. Though the plans are designed in group sessions of five to 20 students, each four-year plan is individualized according to a student's degree requirements and preferences--taking into consideration which liberal arts courses to take, internships and study abroad opportunities.

"Every semester when registering for classes I use my four-year plan to aid in my selection," said Christina Harmon, a sophomore majoring in psychology. "'Eastern in 4' was a great way for me to learn what classes I need to take and how to stay on track in order to graduate on time."

While "Eastern in 4" is available to all students and majors, it is especially useful to transfer students, continuing education students and those switching majors. "This program is ideal at Eastern because we're a liberal arts school," said Chris Drewry, a professional advisor with the Advising Center. "Students are required and encouraged to take courses outside of their major, so having this direction is really helpful."

"Before making my 'Eastern in 4' plan, I had no idea if I could fit a double major's worth of classes into my schedule," said Thomas Hacker, a freshman with a double major. "Now I have a roadmap to double major in music and communication in four years."

Eastern to Host Forum on CPTV Documentary on State's Prisons

Written by Dwight Bachman


Willimantic, Conn. -- The Center for Community Engagement at Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting a forum to view and discuss the Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) documentary, "The Color of Justice." The forum will be held on Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. in Room 110 of Webb Hall on the Eastern campus. The event, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, School-Based Arrest Reduction Collaborative; Windham Willimantic Local Interagency Services Team (LIST), and Eastern's Division of Student Affairs, is free and open to the public.

"Color of Justice" examines the role race plays in Connecticut's juvenile justice system. The state's own studies show that minority children enter the juvenile justice system at a higher rate than their white peers, and are treated more harshly there. Research shows that adult decisions, not the behavior of the children, accounts for these differences.

After producing the documentary, CPTV partnered with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance to organize forums around the state to help communities more thoroughly examine the issue. The Alliance has spearheaded major juvenile justice reforms that have improved public safety, while reducing the number of youths sent to the state's most expensive juvenile justice programs.

The forum will focus on understanding the issue and on finding concrete ways that citizens can act to promote equality for all Connecticut youth. For more information about the forum, contact: Kimberly Silcox, Center for Community Engagement, Eastern Connecticut State University (860) 465-4426.

Plunge for Hunger 2014

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - On Feb. 1, students of Eastern Connecticut State University along with members of the local community jumped into the frigid waters of Lauter Park to raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Plunge for Hunger saw more than 200 participants and raised more than $5,000 for the soup kitchen, with donations are still being collected.

 More than 40 Eastern students attended the event, but only 15 or so took the plunge. "Luckily it was a nice day," said Max Goto, AmeriCorps VISTA with Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, remarking on the event's sunny, 40 degree weather. "I wasn't planning to plunge, but some friends convinced me, so I undressed and jumped in and immediately regretted it. But upon getting out, the crowd was warm spirited and welcoming."

 The Eastern crowd was chiefly represented by the baseball team, which raised more $900; the rugby team, which raised more than $2,200; and the Center for Community Engagement team, composed of Student Government Association (SGA) members and Resident Assistants. The ECSU Foundation also donated $1,500.
"Having helped promote the event, I would have felt like a hypocrite if I didn't jump in," said Meaghan McFall-Gorman, a freshman double majoring in English and political science. "It was a great experience, and rewarding to help the Covenant Soup Kitchen. I am dedicated to doing it again next year."

The Covenant Soup Kitchen in a fixture of the Willimantic community, providing invaluable food assistance to hundreds of individuals and families throughout the year.
 
"Usually when people tell you to jump in a lake, they are being rude," said Reuben Rivera, a freshman majoring in computer science. "Now, to me, 'go jump in a lake' means to do good. It means to try and make a difference. All in all, it was a good experience and I will be doing it next year."

Volunteers Needed for Special Olympics Swim Meet

Written by Michael Rouleau


Willimantic, Conn. - The 35th Annual Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet will be held Saturday, March 8 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Windham High School. Approximately 350 volunteers will be needed to continue to make this one of the largest and most successful Special Olympics swim meets in Connecticut.

            "Over 200 athletes with intellectual disabilities from Connecticut and Massachusetts are expected to register for the event," said Charles Wynn, 2014's meet director and professor of chemistry at Eastern Connecticut State University. In addition to the swimming competition, sports clinics, aerobics, and arts and crafts activities will be offered.

The greatest need is for one-to-one partners, who will make sure athletes get to their registered events, cheer them on, and get them involved in activities when they are not swimming. Volunteers are also needed in areas such as sports clinics, food service and water safety. 

All volunteers will be provided with lunch from McDonald's and a Windham Special Olympics t-shirt.  Volunteer registration forms can be downloaded after Jan. 6 at windhaminvitationalswimmeet.weebly.com.  This activity is approved for community service credit.

            Special Olympics is a year-round program of physical fitness, sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The program is unique in that it accommodates competition at all ability levels by assigning athletes to "competition divisions" based on both age and performance ability. According to a study by experts at Yale University, Special Olympics athletes perform better at school, at work and at home, the longer they participate in the program.

Eastern Students Volunteer at Martin Luther King Jr. Services

Written by Michael Rouleau

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Student Leaders Les Damour and Yollaine Kaja working with Eastern volunteers and North Windham Elementary students on the Hand Print for World Peace activity. In this activity, the students trace and cut out the shape of their hand, and inside of it write something they can do to help promote world peace.

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University students volunteered at elementary schools throughout the Windham area for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 14. The day of service, organized by Eastern's Center for Community Engagement, took place at Windham Center School, North Windham School, Sweeney School and the new STEM Academy.

Forty-five student volunteers split up among the four schools and led more than 100 children through diversity-themed activities. The program began with a brief presentation on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Following was a reading of Dr. Suess' book "The Sneetches," which teaches that we can coexist peacefully despite our external differences. "MLK and Me" work packets were also filled out, which taught more about the life of Martin Luther King by having the children draw on similarities and relate to him. Concluding was an arts and crafts activity that involved brainstorming ways in which the world could live more peacefully.

"The program served its purpose in educating and raising awareness about Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights advocacy," said Maxwell Goto, a volunteer coordinator with Eastern's Center for Community Engagement.

 

CLIP Hosts Free Training for Law Enforcement Officers

Written by Akaya McElveen

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Willimantic, Conn. - The Community Life Improvement Project (CLIP), a collaborative between Eastern Connecticut State University and the Windham community to prevent student alcohol abuse, hosted a free training conducted by the Connecticut State Police and the Northeast Communities Against Substance Abuse (NECASA) in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room in the J. Eugene Smith Library on Dec. 5. The training focused on new trends in alcohol and drug use related to college students and youth, and was made possible by the CLIP grant. The training was led by Connecticut State Police Sergeant Christopher Bartolotta.

Departments and agencies represented at the training were: CCSU Police, Cheshire Police, Colchester Police, Coventry Police, Mansfield Resident Troopers, Dept. of Consumer Protection, ECSU Police, Fairfield Police, Greenwich Police, Groton Town Police, Manchester Police, Middletown Police, Milford Police, Mitchell College, Newtown Police, Plainfield Police, Putnam Police, Quinnipiac University, SCSU, State Environmental Conservation Police, University of Hartford, WCSU Police & Westport Police.

 Coalition members of CLIP include Eastern faculty members, staff and students as well as local officers, liquor license holders and residents. Together, these members help curb underage and high-risk student drinking.
 Highlighted in the training was the importance of preventing and identifying home labs for illicit drugs. Bartolotta introduced the law enforcement officers to home labs such as mushroom labs, LSD labs, urine labs and indoor marijuana grows. The training concentrated on ways to identify such labs. Bartolotta also examined the occurrence of cross contamination when handling certain illicit drugs.

The training also provided the law enforcement agencies in attendance an overview of The Drug Endangered Children Program, which is set to promoted throughout the country in August 2014. The mission of the program is to break the cycle of abuse and neglect by empowering practitioners who work to transform the lives of children and families living in drug environments. The program began through the efforts of two women. Sue Webber Brown, a District Attorney Investigator in California, recognized the connection between child abuse cases and illicit drugs. "Sometimes it takes a tragedy to see that something needs to be done," stated Bartolotta in referencing Kathey James, who was sentenced to life in prison after the drug lab in her mobile home caught fire and exploded, killing her three small children. The Drug and Endangered Child comprises of representatives from district attorney offices, children's services and law enforcement.

Two from Eastern Receives Best Buddies Award

Written by Akaya McElveen
Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University student Katharine Ferrone and Charles Wynn, assistant chair of the Physical Sciences Department each have received a Best Buddies of Connecticut (BBCT) award for the month of November. 

Ferrone received the College Chapter President of the Month BBCT Award for November. Ferrone is a junior majoring in social work. She serves as the Eastern BBCT chapter president and has been a contributing member of the organization for a substantial amount of time, though she exhibited exceptional skills and commitment in November.

Ferrone has improved Best Buddies' weekly chapter meetings by adding an educational component. She finds guest speakers, articles and videos about the disability rights movement and social inclusion to present to the chapter. She also has committed herself to help organize the BBCT state event, "Beats for Buds." She is also actively involved in helping with the annual Windham Special Olympics Swim Meet held at Windham High School, where she and her Best Buddies participants arrive at the school once a week with "unrivaled enthusiasm" and "genuine commitment" to assist the athletes. "Their time both in and out of the pool," said Adrianne Levine, head coach for the Windham Special Olympics swim team and Eastern alumna. "She has helped our athletes to develop relationships, strengthen their conversation skills and boost their confidence." Ferrone have demonstrated superb dedication to the organization, and plans to continue her efforts next semester. Aside from organizing Beats for Buds, she and her fellow Best Buddies participants plan to host "Spread the Word to End the Word."  The week-long event is an initiative to eliminate the derogatory use of the word "retard." They also plan to host a BBCT Dance-a-thon to help raise money for the state's programs.

Wynn received the Best Buddies Advisor of the Month Award for November. He is the assistant chair of the Physical Sciences Department and professor of chemistry. Wynn became the Best Buddies faculty advisor in September 2013. In a few short months, his contributions to the organization have helped improve the overall quality of the program. He attends weekly chapter meetings and assists Ferrone in finding and presenting educational material to present to the chapter members. He was also instrumental in recruiting more than 20 new buddies for the Eastern chapter in less than a month. "When Katharine asked me to become the club's faculty advisor, I readily agreed," said Wynn. "I've been really impressed by the enthusiasm of the club's members. They are an inspiration to all of us." In addition to his role as faculty advisor for the chapter, Wynn is also a member of many local organizations. For more than a decade, he has served as the chairman of the Special Olympics Invitational Swim Meet committee, which Eastern faculty members and students have supported through countless hours of volunteer work.

            Levine states, "It is people like Dr. Wynn and Katharine who are making the world a better place not only for people with developmental disabilities but by caring for them also!"

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant, international organization that has grown to almost 1,500 middle school, high school and college chapters worldwide. As a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders and make lifelong friendships.

CLIP Hosts Training for Law Enforcement Officers

Written by Akaya McElveen
Willimantic, Conn. - The Community Life Improvement Project (CLIP), a collaborative between Eastern Connecticut State University and the Windham community to prevent student alcohol abuse, hosted a free training conducted by the Connecticut State Police and the Northeast Communities Against Substance Abuse (NECASA) in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room in the J. Eugene Smith Library on Dec. 5. The training focused on new trends in alcohol and drug use related to college students and youth, and was made possible by the CLIP grant. The training was led by Connecticut State Police Sergeant Christopher Bartolotta.

Departments and agencies represented at the training were: CCSU Police, Cheshire Police, Colchester Police, Coventry Police, Mansfield Resident Troopers, Dept. of Consumer Protection, ECSU Police, Fairfield Police, Greenwich Police, Groton Town Police, Manchester Police, Middletown Police, Milford Police, Mitchell College, Newtown Police, Plainfield Police, Putnam Police, Quinnipiac University, SCSU, State Environmental Conservation Police, University of Hartford, WCSU Police & Westport Police.

Coalition members of CLIP include Eastern faculty members, staff and students as well as local officers, liquor license holders and residents. Together, these members help curb underage and high-risk student drinking.

Highlighted in the training was the importance of preventing and identifying home labs for illicit drugs. Bartolotta introduced the law enforcement officers to home labs such as mushroom labs, LSD labs, urine labs and indoor marijuana grows. The training concentrated on ways to identify such labs. Bartolotta also examined the occurrence of cross contamination when handling certain illicit drugs.

The training also provided the law enforcement agencies in attendance an overview of The Drug Endangered Children Program, which is set to promoted throughout the country in August 2014. The mission of the program is to break the cycle of abuse and neglect by empowering practitioners who work to transform the lives of children and families living in drug environments. The program began through the efforts of two women. Sue Webber Brown, a District Attorney Investigator in California, recognized the connection between child abuse cases and illicit drugs. "Sometimes it takes a tragedy to see that something needs to be done," stated Bartolotta in referencing Kathey James, who was sentenced to life in prison after the drug lab in her mobile home caught fire and exploded, killing her three small children. The Drug and Endangered Child comprises of representatives from district attorney offices, children's services and law enforcement.

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