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Education News From Northeastern Connecticut

EASTCONN’S Interdistrict Cooperative Grants Program Empowers Communities Through Education

For more than a decade, EASTCONN’s Interdistrict Cooperative Grants Program has established itself as a beacon of educational equity and community collaboration across Connecticut, one that fosters inclusivity, mindfulness and academic excellence among students from diverse backgrounds.

The cooperative or equity grants, which are the result of the landmark Sheff vs. O’Neill case, are designed to bring elementary and middle school students from disparate communities – say, rural Ashford and urban Hartford – to engage in learning with one another.

See Grants Program, page 2

EASTCONN Announces Student Art Gala in Hampton on May 2

EASTCONN is proud to announce “Harmony in Diversity,” an Art Gala celebrating the artistic talents of students from the agency’s four special education programs: Bridges Community School and Educational and Vocational Center (EVC) in Columbia; EASTCONN Transition Academy (ETA) in Windham; and Northeast Regional Program (NRP) in Killingly.

See Art Gala, page 3

EASTCONN 376 Hartford
Hampton, CT 06247
Students create Transformation Bottles - personal and unique mindfulness tools to help them manage their emotions and make healthier choices.
Spring 2024 Volume 44, Number 3

...Grants Program, from page 1

The Interdistrict Grants Program has had many individual grants throughout the years. Currently it encompasses four individual grants: America’s Mosaic, Faces of Culture, Mindful Transformations and Project Green Planet. The program incorporates mindfulness and social-emotional learning (SEL) practices into each grant.

“There are two overarching goals,” said Grant Coordinator Stephanie White. “One is to reduce racial, social and economic isolation, and the second is to improve academic performance in a targeted area.”

Infusing mindfulness practices into daily routines and classroom activities, Grant Coordinator Esther Soffer added, gives students essential tools for personal growth and resilience, promotes overall well-being and fosters a positive school climate.

Our journey is just beginning, and the possibilities are endless.”
– EASTCONN Interdistsrict Grant Coordinator Esther Soffer “

“Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation,” Soffer said. “It’s about cultivating a mindset of self-awareness and empathy.”

Soffer and White, who have worked closely together for the past five years, have seen their fair share of heartwarming moments: pen pals who finally meet in person, groups of students hanging back after a program to exchange contact information, children finding the courage to share their feelings, and much more.

“Sometimes you’ll see kids that are not engaged, but by the end, guess what they’re doing? They’re participating,” said Soffer. “In fact, they’re participating better at that point than they have in a really long time. Their teachers are impressed.”

After corresponding through letters, the students finally meet face-to-face for a day of collaborative workshops and activities. When students from Ashford meet their pen pals from Hartford, excitement and nervousness quickly give way to interpersonal connections.

“We ask, ‘Who’s excited about having a pen pal, who’s nervous, and who’s both?’ Most kids raise both hands,” Soffer said. “We say, ‘That’s great, that’s what you should be.’”

White said the younger kids embrace with hugs, while older

See Grants Program, page 4

2. Executive Editor: Dona Prindle, Director of Marketing & Communications, Editor/Writer: Michael Hamad, Communications Specialist, Graphic Designer: Angela Dean, EASTCONN Administration: Eric Protulis, Executive Director, EASTCONN, 376 Hartford Turnpike, Hampton, CT 06247, 860-455-0707 •
EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Spring 2024

...Art Gala, from page 1

The Art Gala takes place on Thursday, May 2 from 4-6 p.m. at the EASTCONN Conference Center in Hampton (376 Hartford Turnpike).

Motivated by the opportunity to showcase their talents, students have poured their hearts and souls into a diverse array of projects, each reflecting their unique voices and passions. From modern costume designs to personal portraits, mesmerizing landscapes to vibrant abstract works, and intricate sculptures to innovative threedimensional art, the exhibition offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of creativity thriving within our programs.

“Our students have truly found their voices through art, and we are thrilled to provide a platform for them to share their incredible work with the community,” said Kristin James, Assistant Director of Pupil Services at EASTCONN.

“Their dedication and enthusiasm have been inspiring, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating their achievements.”

In addition to the captivating artwork on display, attendees can indulge in a selection of refreshments while browsing replications of student art available for sale and order.

Exciting raffle prizes generously donated by local businesses will also be up for grabs, with all proceeds directly supporting the purchase of a kiln and pottery wheels for the students, further nurturing their artistic endeavors.

Agency Professional Notes

“Promoting Neurodiversity Affirming Practices and Language in Schools” was presented by Dr. Rose Jaffery, Morgan O’Malley, Dr. Jacquelyn DuBois and Dr. Jennifer Connolly at the National Association for School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Convention in New Orleans in February. The presentation highlighted practical steps to celebrate neurodiversity in schools and provided recommendations around supporting educators in implementing neurodiversityaffirming practices.

Director of Leading & Learning and Magnets Diane Dugas, ACT

Principal Sarah Mallory and ACT Instructional Coach Dr. Evan Krawiec presented “Embracing ARTS & Empowering Students to Drive Systemic Change” at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Annual Conference in Washington D.C., March 22, 2024.

EASTCONN Head Start was awarded a $148,000 grant from the Office of Early Childhood and LISC. The funds will be used for renovations at the Danielson location (pictured), including adding a bathroom, a new EHS classroom space and an individual outdoor play space for each classroom with a poured surface for bikes, scooters and push toys. The process was very competitive, with over 700 applications submitted. Improvements at this building have been ongoing as the needs of the program and the community have continued to change.

The Student Art Gala promises to be an uplifting event, showcasing the immense talent and creativity of our students while fostering a sense of community and support. Don’t miss this opportunity to be inspired and make a difference in the lives of these remarkable young artists.

ACT Instructional Coach

Dr. Evan Krawiec, Director of Leading & Learning and Magnets Diane Dugas, QMC Principal Ted Keleher, ACT Principal Sarah Mallory and QMC Instructional Coach Kristin Stryker presented “More than Posters on the Wall: Turning the Portrait of a Graduate from a Lifeless Document to a Living Instructional Framework” at Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Conference on March 14, 2024.

EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Spring 2024

2024 Summer Learning Programs At Eastconn


Adult & Community Programs

Free classes throughout the summer in high school completion, U.S. citizenship, English language instruction, employment and training. Classes and support are offered online and/or in-person for adults (17+) in eastern Connecticut. Call for an appointment. Co-located with American Job Centers in Willimantic (860-423-2591) and Danielson (860-779-3770). Email: Facebook: @EASTCONNAdultEducationPrograms.


Birth to Three

Services and programming for young children and their families enrolled in this early-intervention program will continue uninterrupted this summer. Early childhood specialists provide support for young families by helping them build on skills that meet the developmental and health-related needs of their infants and/or toddlers. Services are delivered in-person across northeastern Connecticut. Contact Director of Birth to Three Rebecca Breen at

Head Start/Early Head Start

In Danielson, EASTCONN will offer a 5-week summer program (Monday-Friday) from July 8 through Aug. 9 for currently enrolled children who are kindergarten-eligible or have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Location: EASTCONN’s Northeast Learning Center, 562 Westcott Road, Danielson. Contact Head Start ERSEA Coordinator/Project Specialist Jen Snyder at

...Grants Program, from page 2

students can seem standoffish at first before warming up over the course of the day. “There’s an eagerness from the kids to stay in contact and get to know each other more,” she said.

Central to the Interdistrict Grant Program’s success is its extensive network of community partners and collaborators, who offer students enriching experiences and resources extending well beyond the classroom. Holocaust survivor Ruth Weiner Winer, Gettysburg College archeology professor Dr. Kirby Farah, Selma March, Civil rights Activist Peter Malinow and several others participated this year, providing unique perspectives and insights.

Another goal is introducing students to the prospect of higher education. By hosting events at university campuses like Eastern Connecticut State and partnering with programs like UConn Extension, participants become immersed in a collegiate environment.

The partnerships are mutually beneficial, allowing universities to meet community outreach goals while supporting


EASTCONN Bridges Community School

Students enrolled in this comprehensive, center-based educational and behavioral services program can attend summer classes Monday through Thursday from July 1 through August 1. Bridges is located at 10 Commerce Drive, Columbia. Contact Program Director Erin Crosby at

K-12 Clinical Day Treatment (CDT) Programs

Summer programming will be offered Monday through Thursday, July 1 through Aug. 1. Merging best practices in academic, vocational, clinical and behavioral programming, our CDT programs enroll students in grades K-12 with significant social, emotional and behavioral issues. Contact Pupil Services Director Amy Margelony at


Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT)

ACT’s Summer Musical Theater Intensive will take place from July 8-26 at the Capitol Theater (located at 896 Main St., Willimantic). This intensive program offers an unparalleled opportunity for students from northeast Connecticut entering grades 6-10 to immerse themselves in the world of musical theater. Free breakfast and lunch will be provided throughout the program. There is currently a waitlist for this program. Contact Principal Sarah Mallory at for more information

EASTCONN’s vision of connecting children across regional and cultural divisions.

“Our goal is to get young students on campus so they’re not intimidated by college,” Soffer said. “They meet people who look just like they do. (they see it can be a place for them too) It’s life-changing.”

The grants also prioritize holistic well-being through partnerships with local wellness practitioners, including YONO Yoga & Meditation in Willimantic. This year, Soffer and White arranged final field trips to take place at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

As EASTCONN’s Interdistrict Grants Program enters its next phase, the agency remains dedicated to its mission of empowering students, fostering empathy and promoting community engagement.

“Our journey is just beginning, and the possibilities are endless,” Soffer said.

EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Spring 2024

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