On July 28, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Eastern concluded its fifth summer youth program for “Puentes al Futuro” (Bridges to the Future). Sixty students from Windham Middle School participated in English, math, arts, music and dance, gardening, media production, sports and leadership workshops over the four-week program. The students also participated in service projects at the new West Avenue Community Center afterschool site and went on field trips to the local nonprofit organization CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Cooperative Kitchen).
Puentes al Futuro provides a safe space for summer fun and helps students improve their academics in advance of the next school year. The program is an extension of an after-school program in Windham schools during the academic year that has grown from 20 students when it started five years ago to an anticipated level of 125 for the next year.
This year, 12 Eastern students served as counselors and mentors to build self-confidence among the children. Many are also members of CCE, where more than 1,000 students each year provide 20,000 hours of volunteer service in 35 programs at local schools and community organizations.
One of the goals of Puentes is to encourage middle school students to learn about their personal identity and cultural roots, and realize that there is a path open for them to grow through school, attend college and realize their life’s dreams. Adilsa Encarnacao ’18, a summer counselor from Waterbury, said, “I thought I was going to help them, but I feel I have learned more from the kids than they have learned from me.” Eddie Pavliscsak ’17 of Ashford, said he was happy to be able to introduce the children to Eastern’s campus, including classrooms, the Sports Center, the Student Center and outdoor spaces. “Being on campus really helps them see themselves as future college students.”