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Eastern community engagement awarded $65K grant for youth development

Published on December 14, 2023

Eastern community engagement awarded $65K grant for youth development

Eastern student at Windham class
An Eastern student volunteers with a child from Windham Public Schools.

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Eastern Connecticut State University will receive $65,000 in funds for advancing youth development as part of a state pilot program to reinvest in communities that were hardest hit by the war on drugs.

The grant comes through the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut and is from the Social Equity Council, a state agency that is charged with ensuring equity in the adult-use cannabis program and in reinvesting funds in communities most negatively affected by the war on drugs, which began in 1971 in the Nixon administration.

The CCE will use the grant to enhance its current after-school enrichment programs in Windham Public Schools and to develop new ones, according to Lana O’Connor, director.

The CCE sends Eastern student volunteers to six Windham schools. The grant will enable it to develop more diverse enrichment activities in the after-school programs, reinforce students’ social aptitudes and emotional well-being and expand and strengthen collaborations with parents, community stakeholders and others, O’Connor said.

Two more projects will be developed. Planning is underway for those. In one, the CCE would invite middle school and high school students in Windham to Eastern’s campus during the Windham students’ spring break, April 15-19, 2024, to attend workshops. These would provide interactive and hands-on learning experiences, promote college aspirations, develop practical skills for academic success and careers and foster mentoring of the Windham students by Eastern faculty, staff and students. 

A third project would focus on environmental stewardship, cultural programs and STEM/STEAM learning that could be carried out at schools or in the community. Eastern’s Institute for Sustainability will work with the CCE on the environmental project. The CCE will partner with the Intercultural Center, the Office of Diversity and Equity and academic departments on the cultural programs. The third project would also take place during the Windham students’ spring break.

The Community Foundation for Eastern Connecticut is one of six intermediaries around the state that received the state reinvestment funds to re-grant to local communities. It made 18 grants; seven to agencies that provide services to formerly incarcerated residents in New London, Norwich and Willimantic/Windham and 11 in support of youth development. Overall, $1 million in cannabis reinvestment funds were distributed through the Community Foundation to programs in the three eastern Connecticut towns. Statewide, $6 million in reinvestment funds were given in grants through six third-party grant managers, including the Community Foundation, two United Ways and three other organizations.

Written by Lucinda Weiss