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about us: changing lives: successful children

Photo of Group of ChildrenA Recipe for Success in Hartford Classrooms

With a blend of teamwork and dedication, United Way continues to cook up a recipe for success for kids through its partnership with Hartford Public Schools, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and Girls and Boys Town. Now in its third year, the partnership has brought Girls and Boys Town’s Classroom Management Program to 12 schools in Hartford, mixing social skills with classroom learning. The program has helped the participating schools reduce office referrals, after-school detentions and student misconduct. And what does this recipe all “boil” down to? Heartier portions of learning everyday.

Students proudly demonstrate their ability to follow directions during a performance at

Students proudly demonstrate their ability to follow directions during a performance at
United Way of the Capital Area.

Thanks to the Classroom Management Program, disruptive behavior has been reduced and students are acquiring skills that will help them in school and in life. For example, one school experienced such a dramatic reduction in office referrals that school staff saved 20 hours per month of time previously spent disciplining students.

In June, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (MLK) demonstrated what they’ve learned from the program to community leaders, school administrators, and friends of United Way at a reception for Father Val Peter, executive director of Girls and Boys Town. The students did role playing of one of the social skills they have learned through the Classroom Management Program–following directions. Shirley Paddyfote, a fifth-grade teacher at MLK, topped off the presentation by sharing her classroom’s recipe for success.

In addition to effective classroom management, another important ingredient for childhood success is effective parenting and family relationships. Toward that end, United Way, with additional support from Fleet Bank, is assisting The Village for Families and Children (a United Way-funded agency) in developing The Institute for Successful Parenting. Using Girls and Boys Town’s Common Sense Parenting program as the foundation of its curriculum, the Institute will help parents throughout the 40-town Capital Region raise responsible, healthy children.

“Common Sense Parenting provides practical strategies and tools for parents of all ages and backgrounds to help protect and nurture their children,” says Howard Garval, president and chief executive officer of The Village for Families and Children. “It focuses on setting clear expectations for children, teaching social skills and providing ways to help parents deal with issues such as the influence of the media and peer pressure.”

The partnerships that brought Girls and Boys Town’s Classroom Management Program and Common Sense Parenting to Hartford schools serve up generous amounts of positive learning and a safe and supportive community–made with care.

Open Airways for Schools

Student with Nurse

Wheezing, coughing, struggling just to keep breathing would be unimaginable – frightening – for most of us. For 11 year old Jaron Thomas (pictured left), sixth grader at St. Rose School in East Hartford, this struggle was a part of everyday life. Asthma kept Jaron from doing what other kids his age took for granted like playing outside with friends and going to school regularly. Every time he had an asthma attack, he feared he might die.

That was until Jaron participated in the American Lung Association of Connecticut’s Open Airways for Schools (OAS) program at school.  Through the program, Jaron learned how to better control his asthma, and, more importantly, how to participate in all of the activities that are a normal part of the lives of most children his age. Jaron no longer fears for his life every time he suffers from an asthma attack.

The American Lung Association of Connecticut, one of 35 health–related charities supported through Community Health Charities of Connecticut, provides elementary schools around the state with this school-based asthma educational program targeting children between the ages of eight and eleven. To date, an estimated 4,300 students statewide have been through the program.

The goal of this interactive program is to help children take control of their asthma. It is designed to be fun as well as educational. OAS has a track record of success that includes fewer and less severe asthma episodes, a reduction in the number of school days missed and improved grades.  Through stories, games, and role- playing, children learn what causes asthma episodes and how to manage them. Facilitators of the program can be school nurses or other medical professionals.

To bring OAS to your school, call Angie Testa, manager of School Health Programs, American Lung Association of Connecticut at 1-800-LUNGUSA or visit www.alact.org.


United Way Presents Tenth Annual Courage Award to Young Man Dedicated to Helping Hartford Youth

Photo of Jose Gonzalez of Hartford

The United Way Community Campaign presented the tenth annual Courage Award to Jose Gonzalez of Hartford on June 13. The award presentation was held during the lunchtime program of Jumpstart 2003, a training conference for local campaign volunteers, held at Capital Community College in downtown Hartford. Dona D. Young, chairman of the 2003 United Way Community Campaign and chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Phoenix Companies, Inc., presented the award.Jose Gonzalez is a longtime resident of Hartford’s Dutch Point housing development. As a child, he watched as his two older brothers became involved in gangs. Tragically, one of his brothers died as a result of that involvement, and Gonzalez resolved, at age 11, that his mother would not have to see the same thing happen to another of her children. After he graduated from Bulkeley High School, Gonzalez worked with the Hartford Youth Peace Initiative program to help steer children away from gangs. He became involved as a Boys & Girls Club volunteer as soon as a club opened in his Dutch Point neighborhood last year.Gonzalez’ nominator, Jackie Bethea, wrote: “Fifty-six percent of Dutch Point residents are age seventeen or younger and sadly these youths are exposed to crime on a daily basis. Jose has taken it upon himself to try and protect and nurture these young people and help them to rise above their current conditions.”

At age twenty-one, Gonzalez is like a big brother to the children served by the Boys & Girls Club. After helping out as a volunteer, he is now employed at the club full-time. Bethea wrote, “He has discovered that his natural inclination to care about and nurture others, in particular children, is a viable and rewarding career choice. His self-esteem has risen dramatically and he eagerly undertakes training opportunities. The best part of this story is that Jose’s hope is contagious; the children who live on an urban battlefield now hope they can be like Jose.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford has been serving the city’s youth since the founding of the first Boys Club in the nation in Hartford in 1860. Today, the organization serves more than 3,500 Hartford children at seven locations. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford seeks to enable children from distressed communities to become responsible, productive and caring citizens, by way of programs that focus on character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports fitness and recreation.United Way created the Courage Award in 1994 to recognize those who have triumphed over adversity through the assistance of a United Way Community Campaign-funded agency. Four judges selected this year’s recipient: Edna Berastain from Latinos/Latinas Contra SIDA; Venton Forbes of the Aetna Foundation; Liz Gagne from Lincoln Financial and a member of the board of directors of United Way of the Capital Area; and Doby Hall from the National Organization for Rare Disorders and a member of the board of directors of Community Health Charities of Connecticut.

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