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CCSU, City Launch Hurricane Relief Welcoming Campaign

Representatives from the Consolidated School District of New Britain, Central Connecticut State University, and The Ana Grace Project held a joint news conference on Nov. 9 at Central Park in downtown New Britain to announce the launch of the Hurricane Relief Welcoming Campaign. (Photo by Johnathon Henninger)

On Nov. 9, the CCSU-Ana Grace Project Relief Effort joined forces with the Consolidated School District of New Britain to launch a Hurricane Relief Welcoming Campaign and greet students from Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and other communities affected by the string of recent hurricanes and natural disasters in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States mainland.

Flanked by about a dozen of the roughly 100 students who have arrived in the city from Puerto Rico in the weeks since hurricanes Irma and Maria, officials gathered in Central Park in downtown New Britain to announce the partnership and the resources being made available to displaced students and their families. Speakers included CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro; Ana Grace Project founder Nelba Marquez-Greene; New Britain Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra; and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart ’09.

“The doors of our schools are open, and we welcome them,” Sarra said of the students and their families. “As we provide them with a quality education, the CCSU-Ana Grace Project, along with our other community partners, stand ready to help with any supplies and services students and their families may need.”

The plight of displaced families resonated personally with Toro and Marquez-Greene, both of whom were born in Puerto Rico. Toro still has family on the island and recognized how urgently help was needed when she went to Miami to meet a flight carrying her mother and other evacuees in the days after Hurricane Maria.

“We are ready to do everything we can to make sure students and their families feel safe and welcome,” Toro said. “Together we will make sure that every student who comes into this city — whether they are entering Kindergarten or their last year of high school — gets the best possible education, which will lead them on the right path to higher education.”

Marquez-Greene said New Britain is the first place her family stopped when they came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico.

“I attended the same schools as you,” she told the students. “This welcoming campaign is our way of lighting a candle for those coming from Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and other communities impacted by the recent natural disasters,” she added. “This is how ‘Love Wins’ makes sure all students have the opportunity to be successful.”

The school district has designated two of its family resource centers where displaced families with school-age children can sign up for school. Both centers have translators and family resource staff on hand to help families settle in. The center for students in Pre-K through eighth grade is at 185 Steele St., behind Slade Middle School. Students in grades 9 through 12 should go to New Britain High School at 110 Mill St. College-age students who wish to enroll at CCSU will find assistance at CCSU’s Admissions Office in Davidson Hall, Room 115, 1615 Stanley St.

The Ana Grace Project will work with CSDNB and CCSU to distribute supplies to the families, Marquez-Greene said. The Hurricane Relief Campaign also will collect supplies and monetary donations through Dec. 22. Pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters, tights, socks, coats, hats, scarves, and mittens are being requested for students in grades Pre-K through 12. Clothing donations can be dropped off with Jessica Hernandez with the CCSU Office of Community Engagement at 185 Main St., Suite 103, New Britain. Monetary donations can be sent to the CSDNB Superintendent’s office at 272 Main St., New Britain, 06051.

The school district also will distribute store gift cards to the affected families, officials said. Families registering for school also will have an opportunity to set up a personal shopping experience at CCSU’s Institute of Technology and Business Development in downtown New Britain through Dec. 22. One hundred percent of all donations will go to displaced families, said Marquez-Greene.

For more information about the CCSU-Ana Grace Project Relief Effort, visit https://ccsu.networkforgood.com. For more information about the initiative in the schools, visit www.csdnb.org and click on the link at the top of the page.

A Good Start

The University launched the CCSU-Ana Grace Project Relief Effort on Oct. 7, after reports from the Caribbean showed the extent of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, which landed soon after Hurricane Irma struck the region in mid-September.

Donations to the CCSU-Ana Grace Project Relief Effort will fund scholarships for eligible individuals from areas affected by the hurricanes who wish to pursue educational opportunities at CCSU and additional support for the 11 elementary schools that have enrolled students from the affected regions. Funds also will provide space in CCSU’s Institute for Technology & Business Development to provide support and services for families enrolling students in the district.

The CCSU Foundation will match the first $10,000 in donations.

Days after the relief effort launched, it received a significant lead donation of $10,000 from the Tomasso family of New Britain.

“The Tomasso family is proud to support the CCSU’s mission to provide desperately needed relief. We hope our contribution will help inspire other community support for this initiative,” said William A. Tomasso.

Christopher Galligan, vice president of Institutional Advancement at CCSU, added, “We deeply appreciate the generosity of the Tomasso family. And we are pleased that they have joined us as a community partner in helping New Britain schools prepare for students of families displaced by recent catastrophes.”

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