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Aug 10

CREC Students Explore Connecticut Ecosystems, Study Insect Species During Summer Biodiversity Camp

When Ariana Patterson, a 17-year-old at CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, looks at plants, she sees more than just greenery and foliage – she sees small ecosystems with the plants and insects exchanging benefits. As a teaching assistant at Biodiversity Camp at CREC Two Rivers Middle School this year, Ariana shared this perspective with the middle and high school students at the weeklong summer camp.“You have to think of it as a more important piece of the puzzle. You start to look at it as even if it’s small or a little creepy it has some significance that can’t just be brushed off. It makes you want to learn more about it and want to protect it,” said Ariana, who first attended the camp a few years ago as a middle school student at CREC Two Rivers Middle School.Biodiversity Camp, organized by CREC Two Rivers Middle School Science Teacher Edmund Smith and Dr. David Wagner, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Connecticut, is a free camp where participants get the opportunity to investigate the biodiversity of local ecosystems and learn how to identify common insects and plants.The camp is geared towards extreme enrichment with students that have already proven themselves energetic, focused and comfortable with extended field studies, said Smith.“This camp is not meant to give students their first experiences in field studies. Several students have chosen college and career paths in the biological sciences following their experiences with the Biodiversity Camp,” he said.Biodiversity Camp took place from June 26th - 30th this year. The camp had 20 high school and middle school students. About half were CREC students, 40 percent came from Hartford Public Schools and the rest were from other districts.Jacob Kuczek, 13, a student at CREC Two Rivers Middle, said he and other camp participants explored the Fenton River near UConn, the Connecticut River and Matianuck Natural Area Preserve.“We explored a bit, everyone in the camp got nets to catch insects. We brushed the nets through the grass and looked to see if we caught anything,” he said.Insects that were caught – milkweed beetles, black fireflies, spiders, moths, among others – were either frozen to be examined under a microscope or kept alive.“The purpose of keeping them alive is to study their behavior, what they eat,” said Jacob.Students attended the camp during the day. On the last night, campers competed in a BioBlitz – a contest to see who could catch and identify the most insects - until midnight and slept at CREC Two Rivers Magnet Middle School. This is the camp’s third summer, with the first and second camps running in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, camp organizers focused on a statewide CT BioBlitz where CREC Two Rivers Middle School set a world record of most organisms identified in a 24-hour period.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 16 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Aug 8

CREC Metropolitan Learning Center Graduate Recognized by World Affairs Council of Connecticut for Social Justice Work

(Hartford, CT) During her freshman year at CREC Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies, Raena Davis joined a student abolitionist group devoted to bringing awareness to the community about modern-day slavery and human trafficking. It was the beginning of Raena’s commitment to global affairs.“Many of my previous teachers hadn’t talked about human trafficking. Slavery was taught as an antiquated practice that had been abolished,” said Davis, 18, of Hartford. “But human trafficking is prevalent today, not only abroad but in the United States and the state of Connecticut.”By the time she graduated from CREC MLC in June, Raena was leading Student Abolitionists Stopping Slavery (SASS) and was teaching middle school art classes about human trafficking. During school, Raena had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to work on a community service project in the municipality of Jarabacoa.Because of her work towards improving the lives of others, Raena is among 12 graduating high school seniors who are being recognized by the World Affairs Council (WAC) with the Global Student Leadership Award. The award is given to students who have demonstrated a high interest in and have gone above and beyond to get involved in global affairs.Raena will attend Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT this fall and plans to study Biology with a minor in Spanish. She hopes to continue to engage with global affairs by taking part in study abroad programs, and plans to pursue a career in biological research, personal entrepreneurial enterprises, or journalism. “In my opinion, it’s very important to have a broad cultural awareness when exploring foreign environments. I am also interested in becoming more involved in politics and seeing what changes I can make at the student level as someone who is service-minded,” she said.Raena advises high school students to take advantage of opportunities that allow them to see the world and find where they can make the most positive impact. She is excited to see and interpret the world for herself in the future.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 16 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Jul 31

CREC Students Experience Traditional Summer Camp Through Camp Jewell YMCA Scholarship Program

(Colebrook, CT) Ten-year-old Hartford resident Ezequiel Lopez was annoyed four summers ago when his mom first signed him up for overnight camp at Camp Jewell YMCA in Colebrook.“The first year I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and play video games. When I got here, it was pretty cool. They had a farm and a waterfront. I could go swimming,” said Ezequiel, who goes to school in Windsor Locks through the Hartford Region Open Choice program.Ezequiel quickly grew excited about being at camp and was so eager to return the following year that he packed his bag a month in advance. This is his fourth summer at Camp Jewell YMCA and he plans on returning “till I’m a camp counselor.”Ezequiel is among dozens of students in a CREC-managed program or CREC magnet school who are attending the camp free of charge through scholarships offered by Camp Jewell YMCA. CREC received spots this summer for 100 kids, some of which CREC shared with Hartford Public Schools and community organizations.The scholarship program is part of an effort to serve kids from Greater Hartford and to bring diversity to the camp. The initiative started in 2012 after program leaders realized that hardly any of their campers came from Hartford or New Britain.“We are the YMCA of Greater Hartford and we should be serving kids from Greater Hartford,” said Ray Zetye, Executive Director of Camp Jewell YMCA.Ray sees the program benefitting all campers, not just those attending on scholarship. Diversity, he said, exposes kids to different life experiences and prepares them for the years ahead when they interact with people from varying backgrounds.“We’re creating more empathetic adults through this program,” said Ray. “My dream is to have a cabin with a couple of kids from Hartford, three or four kids from the suburbs, a kid from Spain. I want to have religious diversity, all different dimensions of diversity.” Camp Jewell YMCA is set on 540 acres of majestic woodlands right next to a lake. Although kids follow a rigid daily schedule, they choose which activities to participate in. Their options include, horseback riding, theater, pottery, archery, swimming, boating, outdoor cooking, among other traditional camp activities.Ezequiel enthusiastically described playing Zombie Apocalypse, similar to a game of tag where players become zombies when they are touched by other zombies.This is also the fourth summer at camp for Jada Mann, a 12-year-old from CREC Two Rivers Middle School. Jada enjoys candle-making, swimming. She’s taken basketball clinics, and practiced outdoor cooking. Her favorite thing about camp is making friends.Seven-year-old Uriel Vaughn is experiencing his first year here. He is, “Excited because it’s very cool.”“For a lot our kids, it’s their first time being outside of an urban environment or being away from their families. They get to explore a new environment, make friends and learn to be self-sufficient,” said Eric Crawford, director of the CREC Trude Mero Family Resource Center, during a site visit at the camp last week. Crawford and his staff manage the camp scholarships given to CREC. They recruit students to attend and make routine site visits to check up on the kids.The initiative started with approximately 10 students. It’s grown to about 450, with scholarships offered to students through organizations like CREC, Hartford Public Library, International Institute of Connecticut, Legacy Foundation, and Catholic Charities.Approximately 1,300 kids between the ages of 7 and 16 from Greater Hartford to Fairfield County, as well as China, Spain and the Dominican Republic, participate in the residential camp program each year. The program runs four two-week sessions between June and August.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 16 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Jun 22

Mobility Program Provides Rewarding Experience for Students at CREC Academy of Science and Innovation, Central Connecticut State University

(New Britain, CT) One of the best experiences that Lorette Feivelson had during her time at CREC Academy of Science and Innovation was helping to modify an electric toy car for an 18-month old girl with limited mobility. The girl, Parker, was very hesitant getting into the car, but that soon changed.“You should have seen the look on this girl’s face. She had the biggest smile. Once she figured it out she did not want to get out of the car,” said Feivelson, who graduated from CREC ASI this week. “This was one of the best experiences of my high school career. It was fun and empowering for me, but also rewarding and a chance to give back.”For the second year in a row, students from CREC ASI and Central Connecticut State University teamed up for the Go Baby Go! program. In April, they adapted six motorized toy cars to fit the needs of kids with disabilities. The cars were donated to children who were identified by physical and occupational therapists. Go Baby Go! is designed to give children with limited mobility the ability to move around independently. Founded by the University of Delaware, the program was brought to CCSU approximately three years ago by Michele Dischino, associate professor of technology and engineering education at CCSU.CREC ASI hosted Go Baby Go! for the first time last year, said Gina Gadue, theme coach and instructional specialist at the magnet high school. CREC ASI students, with guidance and instruction from CCSU students, helped build eight cars. The program great that the school wanted to host again this year.The kids love participating in this event. It is so rewarding for them to work on a car for a child that they then get to meet. They are able to see firsthand the child's limitations and know that because they were able to work with others to adapt the car the child gets to enjoy it safely. The best part is to see the smile on the children’s and the parents’ faces,” said Gadue.“The relationship has been so beneficial all around,” said Dischino. “It’s a great opportunity to work with students, especially in doing something that is benefitting another human being.”The cars are modified depending on the child’s needs. Extra supports and padding may be added, safety harnesses are installed and the framework is sometimes adapted. The most common change is to the accelerator.“Normally, you operate the car by pressing the accelerator with your foot, but most children can’t use their feet or have limited mobility,” said Dischino. “We rewire the accelerator function so all the child needs to do is press a big button.”If someone asked Feivelson, who became involved in the program through Ms. Gadue, to participate in Go Baby Go! again, “I would say yes in a heartbeat!”For more information about Go Baby Go!, visit http://www.udel.edu/gobabygo/ or contact Michele Dischino at dischinomic@ccsu.edu.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Jun 15

CREC Metropolitan Learning Center Leo Club Raises Funds for Guide Dog Harness

(Bloomfield, CT) The CREC Metropolitan Learning Center Leo Club recently sponsored a highly successful fundraising campaign to purchase a harness for a Fidelco guide dog. “It is this level of thoughtfulness and kindness that creates the opportunities to help communities. MLC Leos have engaged in projects at local and international levels through this awareness and commitment,” said Constanza Paramo, liaison for the MLC Leo Club and the Bloomfield Lions Club.Club members sold wristbands inscribed in Braille with “MLC Leo” that allowed students to dress casually for the day rather than wear the required school uniform. Proceeds from the “dress down” fundraiser will cover the cost of a guide dog harness with a plaque saying, “Donated by MLC Leos 2017.”Fidelco guide dogs undergo 24 months of intensive training before they are given to a vision-impaired person to assist them with their independence and freedom. The harness will be given to a dog once it completes its training.The MLC Leo Club, which was founded in 2011, is proudly sponsored by the Bloomfield Lions Club for the purpose of developing young student citizens willing to serve communities at local and global levels. Leo Club members are characterized for having a personal drive and keen willingness to support school and community causes that make a positive difference in people’s lives. Prior to the Fidelco campaign, the MLC Leos made a significant contribution to the rebuilding of the “Jose Acevedo Elementary School” in the Philippines which had been devastated by the Haiyan Typhoon. ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Jun 7

CREC Co-sponsors Statewide Symposium on Childhood Trauma and Mental Health

(Hartford, CT) Approximately 100 school, mental health, and community leaders from across the state gathered at the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 to discuss childhood trauma and the impact it can have on a child’s education, as well as possible strategies for responding to children who have experienced trauma or have behavioral health issues. The event, “Symposium on Trauma-Informed School Mental Health,” was the result of collaboration between the Capitol Region Education Council, the state Department of Education, the University of Connecticut Collaboratory on School and Child Health and Neag School of Education, the Ana Grace Project, Clifford Beers Clinic, and the Child Health Development Institute. The symposium’s main goals were to increase awareness among participants of important issues in childhood trauma, discuss creation of a common framework for addressing trauma, violence and mental health needs among children, and to stimulate the development of a trauma-informed school mental health plan.“We are excited to have this collaborative effort on behalf of students and families in Connecticut. This is our first united approach to determine how to best meet the needs of students with mental health needs and those impacted by trauma. We know that our school districts are anxious to become part of this initiative and to be at the table. Hopefully this is the first step in this process,” said Deborah Richards, CREC Director of Student Services.When asked about the value of hosting this type of event, Dr. Sandra Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the Neag School and Co-Director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health, indicated that “we are excited to facilitate important conversations about the what and how of a trauma-informed lens in our school systems. Collaborative efforts such as this symposium form an essential piece of moving toward why it might be important to how do we collectively work together to make it happen.Following opening remarks by Connecticut State Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and a kick-off discussion hosted by the Child Health and Development Institute’s Jeff Vanderploeg and Alice Forrester of the Clifford Beers Clinic, participants broke into groups, with each breakout session using a similar set of questions to focus on issues pertaining to a different topic in school mental health: workforce development; financing school mental health and accountability systems; promotion, prevention, and early identification; and interventions that bridge schools, families and communities. Participants later re-convened to summarize the big ideas, with plans to integrate the discussions into a document to drive next steps in facilitating a statewide framework for trauma-informed school mental health. CREC will continue its collaboration with the co-sponsoring agencies in order to continue this work across the state. ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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May 24

CREC Transition to Employment Programs Break Barriers for New Arrivals and Job-Seekers

(Hartford, CT) Communicating used to be a daily struggle for 29-year-old Freily Medina when she first arrived in Hartford from the Dominican Republic five years ago. She relied heavily on bilingual people to help her talk to doctors, run basic errands or simply navigate her new surroundings.Determined to learn English, Medina went to CREC Transition to Employment Services (TES) where English language and GED courses are offered free of charge. She enrolled in Family Literacy ESL, a beginner-level English class, and took advantage of the free Early Childhood Education classes at their safe and secure onsite facility for her two young children.For me, this program is like my light in this country because I learned English here. When I have appointment for my kids, I don’t need interpreter. If I need to call on the phone, I can call. I feel very happy with me because my English is not a barrier for me anymore. For me, this open doors,” said Medina, who has since completed Intermediate and Advanced English classes, obtained her driver's license and citizenship, enrolled her oldest daughter at the CREC River Street school tuition free through a scholarship, and will be graduating from Manchester Community College with a Medical Office Assistant certificate in June.CREC Transition to Employment Services is a subset of CREC Community Education, which has been around for more than 20 years. They not only offer English and GED classes free of charge, but also provide much needed resources and supplies such as winter gear, hygiene products, back packs, clothing, diapers, baby formula, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas toys, furniture, and much more, all donated from local organizations. In addition, participants receive hot and nutritious meals from House of Bread and professional attire from Dress for Success for job interviews and career fairs. Perhaps most important of all, students are provided with the highest levels of holistic support and best-in-class case management services, which are key in helping meet their needs, allowing them to stay focused on completing their education.  The office’s new location is on the third floor of the Coltsville Armory Dome building at 55 Van Dyke Avenue in Hartford. The new facility has been recently remodeled, and is equipped with a large conference room, Smart classrooms, student cafeteria, family room, and is a certified Pearson testing site. Medina said there are few places like CREC TES where someone could find so many services, great classes, and an amazingly supportive staff all in one place.“For me, this is perfect place if you want to grow and start over in this country,” she said.Currently, students can enroll in Family Literacy ESL, Intermediate English, Advanced English or GED classes. The Advanced English Class is combined with a Medical Office Assistant certificate program at Manchester Community College. All free of charge.“We are the bridge for people. While many of our students had careers in their native countries, we help them develop their English skills and guide them in continuing their professions here,” said Sixmaritt Pagán-Peña, Program Coordinator and Case Manager at CREC Transition to Employment Services.Pagán-Peña said she brings in representatives from Central Connecticut State University to advise students on the steps they need to take to transfer credits from their country of origin or the classes needed to, for example, practice law or accounting here in the U.S. English and GED classes are offered in fall and spring semesters. Students who complete the advanced English class and go on to the medical office assistant course at Manchester Community College also get help finding an internship, which sometimes leads to a fulltime job.Pagán-Peña keeps photos that former students send her or post on Facebook – a photo of a student’s green card, another of an ID badge from a student’s new job at Charter Oak Health Center, a picture of a student’s name engraved on a stethoscope.“I absolutely love my job!” says Pagán-Peña, adding that she gets energized seeing students’ progress and growth throughout program. After spending just a few minutes with her, it quickly becomes very obvious that this is her passion and that her students’ success is what drives her every day.Goodwill Industries recently presented a Community Partner of the Year Award to CREC Transition to Employment Services for their success in helping people obtain their GEDs. TES has been managing a GED program in partnership with Goodwill for about five years. TES attributes this successful partnership to the kindred spirits and mutual goals demonstrated by both organizations. CREC and the Goodwill organization share the same level of standards and expectations for serving the community. Flor M. De Hoyos, Program Manager, had this to say: “We don’t do this work for awards or recognition. We do it because of our passion for improving our community and creating opportunities for others. We are very humbled by this award, and are forever grateful to Goodwill for their support and partnership.”For more information, follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CREC.TES or call 860-509-3638. ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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