by Cassandra Day 12/10/19
MIDDLETOWN — Three local women are using their talents to help single-parent families rise above often challenging circumstances by creating unique, city-based projects to empower them with the skills and education they need for success. Middletown Works, which provided $500 mini grants to each project Monday night at Perk on Main in Middletown, is a collaboration of 30 partners, led by The Connection, Middlesex United Way and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. Funding for Middletown Works is provided by the Working Cities Challenge grant program administered by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Monday’s event was part of Middletown Works’ community engagement strategy, which launched in September, Rebecca Lemanski, director at Middletown Works, said.
The first round of HOPE Awards were presented to innovative, community-based proposals for work that will engage and benefit single-parent families in a number of ways, according to the agency.
HOPE stands for health and well-being; economic opportunities; physical environment; and empowering leaders and building relationships.
In Middletown, single-parent families comprise 40 percent of the population, and one-third of those are living in poverty, according to Middlesex United Way President and CEO Kevin Wilhelm.
“As successful as Middletown is in lots of things, we’re worse in terms of sheer numbers of single-parent families living in poverty,” Wilhelm said. Middletown Works is in its second year, with a 10-year goal of reducing those poverty figures by half.
“Everybody who participates in any of these activities has a value and something to offer, regardless of their income level,” Wilhelm said. “As you get to know people through networking opportunities, you figure out what resources, interest or skills you have that could potentially help someone.”
ITeach College Prep
Shardae Nicholson will offer her ITeach College Prep mentorship and services to two high schoolers in single-parent families as a way to support their college readiness, and provide valuable modeling for the wider community of students and families who experience barriers to higher education, she explained.
Nicholson recognizes students experience a lot of pressure during the college process. When she was first contemplating her higher education years ago, she knew her parents couldn’t afford to apply for loans or even co-sign one for her.
“It was pretty rough,” said the single parent of three.
She originally enrolled in Middlesex Community College but “life happened,” so Nicholson spent the ensuing years raising her children.
Since 2011, she’s been working toward a degree in English with a minor in psychology sciences at Central Connecticut State University.
“It’s taken me awhile. It’s very important for me to give back to my community,” Nicholson said.
She will be connected with two seniors at Middletown High School through the college and career center counseling center, and will help them with deciding on which schools to apply to and which will fit their finances, help them apply for scholarships, and even travel with the students to their freshman orientation and more.
“Me still being in it, I know the ups and downs, twists and turns, which questions to ask. I’m really there to help the student,” she explained. “When it comes to guidance, there are so many students, you can’t meet the needs of every one. Somebody needs to be encouraged, especially on a journey like this. College — this is a big deal,” Nicholson said.
Canvases and Conversation
Felicia Goodwine will facilitate two Canvases and Conversation painting events in mid-March and mid-May, offering mutual support, self-care resources and a fun, creative outlet for single parents, she said.
The event is based on a successful project she completed earlier this year, helping Middletown High School students discover their creativity while answering questions on very important topics.
During Paint Night, Date Night, and Community Conversation, held in February, she broached the subject of teen dating violence. Other issues included domestic violence and mental health, said Goodwine, who works for the Community Health Center, overseeing its Americorps program.
“We’ll take about what wellness is and how do you take care of yourself,” Goodwine said. “It’s allowing folks to know they’re in a safe space, a judgement-free zone. They’re able to be who they are without anyone having preconceived notions.”
Single Vision Parenting Workshop
Sana Cotten will be leading a Single Vision Parenting Workshop series for single mothers and fathers, to address traumatic experiences, build financial and advocacy skills, and create community around the challenges and strengths of single parenthood.
Topics will include how to advocate for a child in the school system, available resources, financial stability, how to read a credit report, and tips on how to maximize one’s income, said Cotten.
“A lot of the needs, I find, are personal situations I’ve encountered. Not being ashamed of your circumstances, your story or what life has dealt you. They can go out and be successful instead of being held down by shame,” said Cotten, who was in foster care until age 9, when she was adopted.
She runs Unashamed, a nonprofit with the mission to engage the community to learn about the issues facing at-risk, neglected youth and young adults.
Sessions will be held at the Community Health Center, 635 Main St., beginning Feb. 15 and running every Saturday through March 7.
The next Middletown Works Community Café will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Russell Library Hubbard Room. Food and activities for children will be provided.
To learn more about Middletown Works, call Lemanski at 860-975-5405, visit middletownworks.org or its Facebook page. To volunteer for Cotten’s efforts, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Lemanski, right, director of MW. Left is Sana Cotten, who earned one of three HOPE awards
by David Radcliffe
Connecticut Offers "New Collar" Careers for Industrious Youth
There is a wide gap between the skill sets needed in today’s manufacturing, tech and healthcare industries and the number of well-trained people ready and eager to step into these jobs. Connecticut high school students considering their futures may not be aware of the full range of opportunities and choices available to them — or the possibilities to lead financially successful, satisfying lives that these careers can provide.
Training is key, but the traditional 4-year college degree is not necessarily the only path.
With the help of our generous supporters, Connecticut Public is telling these stories of up-and-coming young talent in our new video series, Making the Future and Getting to Work. And hear from local experts in the original program, Life Lessons: New Collar Jobs.
By Rebecca Lemanski
Published 12:59 pm EDT, Friday, April 12, 2019
What do flower pots and foster parents have to do with each other? Well apparently, when you bring together people from various backgrounds and diverse perspectives, unlikely things happen.
This unlikely combination emerged after our first Middletown WORKS Community Café in January. During these events, community residents, staff from nonprofit agencies, business owners and parents gather together to talk, share food and participate in unique activities, such as a “marketplace.”
During a marketplace, community members have an opportunity to state their name and make an offer, a request, a declaration or simply pass.
In January, members offered things like clothing, art supplies and handmade slippers. Others made requests such as, “If anyone is able to offer me a ride to the grocery store this Saturday, please let me know,” and “I’m looking for new flower pots — mine are broken,” and “We are looking for foster parents in the Middletown/Middlesex area, so if you know of anyone, please let me know!”
After sharing this story at a team meeting, one of our partners shouted, “from flower pots to foster parents!”
Creating intentional space(s) where people can be themselves, and gather with others they may not normally see on a regular basis allows for these unlikely ideas to emerge.
Our culture is highly individualized — placing a huge focus on self-expression and self-interest, with little regard for the collective whole.
How many times have you heard the phrase: “Just do you.” Middletown WORKS is working to change that.
We intentionally put relationships first. In the words of David Brooks, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, “Culture changes when a small group of people, often on the margins of society, find a better way to live, and other people begin to copy them. We need to create hubs where these decentralized networks can come together for solidarity and support,” Feb. 18, “A Nation of Weavers”.
For the past six months, we have been working diligently to create hubs for people to come together to dialogue across differences, and connect with others in our neighborhood. Along with offering a monthly café, we have also been offering monthly conversation circles.
These are more intimate and take place on the third Thursday of the month from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Family Wellness Center, 635 Main St. We welcome anyone who cares about single-parent families in Middletown to join us for conversation and light refreshments. The next one will be held Thursday. We’d love to see you there.
Our next Community Café is April 29 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink on Main Street. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you experience!
As Middletown WORKS expands, we are looking to grow not only good ideas, but also our social network. All individuals and businesses who would like to make a difference for Middletown’s single-parent families are invited.
To get involved, visit MiddletownWorks.org or call 860-975-5405.
The economic recovery has not affected all workers equally, and many workers rely on public assistance. Wage growth both nationally and in New England was mainly concentrated at the top of the economic spectrum, with those in the middle seeing small real-wage increases. While increases in the minimum wage raised wages for those at the bottom, wage levels still do not allow many families to reach economic self-sufficiency.
This brief analyses the utilization of public assistance and health programs by low-wage workers in New England. We find that despite some increases in wages for the bottom 10 percent, working families in New England still account for the majority of those enrolled in public health and assistance programs. Public programs continue to provide vital support to millions of working families in the region. Policies that raise wages would have the dual benefit of directly improving conditions for many working families and freeing up some of those public resources to better target those Americans who cannot participate in the labor market.
For many families, wage growth has not been
strong enough to allow them to meet their basic needs. Second, a rise in the minimum
wage can increase wages for the lowest-earning workers, but past increases have not
been enough to allow workers to make ends meet without public healthcare and
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